WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Deadly traffic crashes are up in the U.S. and safety advocates are looking for solutions.

More people are dying on the road, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Administration Steven Cliff says their new data shows things are headed in the wrong direction. 

“9,560 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes in the first quarter of this year,” Cliff said. 

That’s a 7% jump from last year and the most first-quarter deaths in 20 years. 

AAA traffic safety director Jake Nelson says the uptick is because of bad behavior from drivers, including driving under the influence, speeding and not wearing a seatbelt. 

“Motorists today are engaging in risky behaviors behind the wheel in ways that they didn’t before,” Nelson said. 

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Safety advocates want government leaders to do more to save lives. They say recent federal infrastructure legislation provides resources that can help prevent traffic deaths. 

Mothers Against Drunk Driving President Alex Otte is one of the people calling for action to address the new numbers.

“9,560 is huge. One would be too many, especially when we know that there are tools to prevent it,” Otte said. 

She says the infrastructure law will eventually require all new cars to have technology that will stop people from driving under the influence. She wants federal leaders to implement that rule faster. 

“Once this technology is in, all new cars it will save an estimated 9,400 lives every year,” Otte said. 

Nelson wants to see law enforcement focus more resources on cracking down on dangerous drivers. He’s also urging leaders to make safety changes in areas like roadway infrastructure and speed limits. 

“State and local governments manage this and they need to be managing it better than they are today,” Nelson said.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration just started its annual ‘Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over Campaign.’ That will mean an increase in officers out on the road from now until Labor Day.

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