Kansas officials say the troubling increase in traffic fatalities across the state is accelerating.
AAA spokeswoman Jennifer Haugh told the Wichita Eagle that Kansas is currently averaging more than one traffic fatality a day.
Statistics from AAA shows that there have been nearly 175 traffic deaths this year through the end of May. That’s a 13 percent increase over the same time frame a year ago, and a 44 percent increase from 2015.
Haugh said cheaper gas prices usually result in people driving more miles but doesn’t necessarily mean they drive safer.
“The toughest thing is to just focus on driving,” she said. “Everyone is trying to do multiple things when they drive, and we’re not wired to multitask.”
She said not wearing seatbelts and having short attention spans can contribute to the fatality increase.
“There are studies that show even talking on the phone or talking to someone else in the car is just as distracting” as texting, Haugh said.
Police statistics show that Wichita itself hasn’t seen a similar increase in traffic fatalities. The city saw 10 incidents through the first five months of 2016 and 11 through the same period this year.
AAA reported that there were more than 430 traffic deaths in Kansas for all of 2016.