Traffic on the westbound Long Island Expressway.

Traffic on the westbound Long Island Expressway. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Driving is quickly becoming more deadly.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said this week that traffic deaths rose 10.4 percent in the first half of 2016 over 2015. That means 1,665 more deaths across the country in six months. And it follows a 7 percent increase in 2015 over 2014, meaning this is a trend.

The agency pointed to a 3.3 percent increase in miles driven, but that doesn’t explain the huge increase in fatalities. And while NHTSA didn’t offer any further explanation, we can all see what’s happening around us. The problem is distracted driving. Far too many of us are fiddling with our phones as we hurtle down the road.

In general, traffic fatality numbers had been falling for decades, thanks mostly to safer cars. Fatalities hit their lowest rate in 2011 and stayed fairly level until the last quarter of 2014, but they’ve been skyrocketing since.

Decades from now, self-piloted vehicles might solve the problem. For now, the Department of Transportation is committing $3 million over the next three years for initiatives like promoting the use of seat belts and touting road improvements. That’s part of its Road to Zero initiative, which aims to end vehicle-related deaths by 2046.

But today, we need a three-pronged approach to reduce these senseless deaths. Cops need to write more tickets for distracted drivers. Phones need technology that makes it much harder to text or use apps while driving. And drivers must stop fooling with their phones.

We can’t resist when we hear that ding. It’s an understandable impulse, but it’s a killer behavior. — The editorial board

Newsday LogoCritical LI Information You NeedDigital Access$1 for 5 months