NATIONWIDE — The news continues to be grim for roadway deaths in the United States. Motor vehicle fatalities increased 7% between January and March this year — a 7% increase compared with the same quarter last year. 

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 9,560 people died on America’s roads during the first quarter — the highest number of deaths for that period in 20 years. 

“The overall numbers are still moving in the wrong direction,” NHTSA Administrator Dr. Steven Cliff said in a statement the agency released Wednesday. “Now is the time for all states to double down on traffic safety. Through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, there are more resources than ever for research, interventions and effective messaging and programs that can reverse the deadly trend and save lives.”

Earlier this year, U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg announced a National Roadway Safety Strategy to help reduce traffic fatalities by focusing on driver behavior, as well as safer roads, safer vehicles and post-crash care.

Last month, NHTSA began a public education campaign to raise awareness about speeding called Speeding Wrecks Lives. Speeding accounts for roughly a third of traffic deaths in the U.S., according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

NHTSA also launched its annual Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over Labor Day enforcement campaign in an effort to prevent impaired driving — another leading cause of crash fatalities.

While 70% of the country saw traffic deaths increase during the first quarter, some areas saw declines. Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky and North Carolina had the highest increase (52%) in traffic fatalities compared with a year earlier. California, Arizona and Hawaii were the only regions that saw a decline; traffic deaths during the first quarter dropped 11%.

North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Nevada, Utah and Colorado traffic fatalities were unchanged compared with a year earlier, as were rates in Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and Florida. The rest of the country saw increases between 2% and 23%.

Since 2011, the death rate per vehicle mile traveled has increased 30%, NHTSA said.