HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut has seen a 16% increase in traffic-related deaths so far this year, compared to 2020, with state researchers blaming higher speeds for many deadly crashes.

There were 283 traffic deaths as of Nov. 2. That's up from 245 through the same period in 2020 and up from 207 in 2019, according to data from the state Department of Transportation cited by the Hartford Courant.

“There are people traveling a lot faster than they used to, and obviously with higher speeds you’re going to get higher injuries and higher fatalities,” said Eric Jackson, executive director of the Connecticut Transportation Institute at UConn. “I’m doing 70 on the interstate, 75 at times, and there are people flying by me doing 90.”

Jackson said people have been driving faster since last spring, when there were generally fewer drivers on the road because of the COVID-19 pandemic. He said those speeds haven't fully come back down. Jackson said he suspects stress and anger among drivers is playing a role in the increased number of crashes.

The state’s record for traffic deaths in a single year is 317, set in 2000.

Connecticut is not alone. Nationally, the number of U.S. traffic deaths in the first six months of 2021 hit 20,160, marking the highest first-half total since 2006, the government reported last month. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg called the increase an unacceptable crisis.

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