Behind the wheel … CAUTION!

The National Safety Council cites many reasons for the big increase in traffic deaths during 2015.

In spite of all the safety features on today’s cars, the number of traffic deaths in the United States rose l8 percent in 2015 over 2014 figures, the largest year-to-year percentage increase in a half-century, according to preliminary estimates by the National Safety Council.

About 38,000 people were killed on U.S. roads, and 4.4 million people were seriously injured, the council said. That would make 2015 the deadliest driving year since 2008.

Council experts say a stronger economy and lower unemployment rates were among key factors that put more people on the road. Add to that cheaper gas prices, which were down by 28 percent from 2014 and encouraged many drivers to take road trips.

The Transportation Department estimated that there was a 3.5 percent increase in the number of miles driven by motorists in the U.S. in 2015.

They are all legitimate reasons for that deadly year, but as you read them, two factors stand out:

* All of those circumstances still exist this year, and those death and injury causes could be even higher. There are probably more drivers than ever on the road, and each driver could be more involved in road trips.

* In 2016, the only thing that could be much better is you! Armed with these 2015 statistics and progressions, you could decide to be a more attentive and careful driver in the cities and on the Interstates.