Traffic accident deaths remain on track to hit the highest levels in Nebraska in eight years, according to AAA Nebraska.

Through Monday, 228 people died in crashes this year, a 14 percent increase over the average number of fatal crashes reported for the past four years, according to the Nebraska Office of Highway Safety. 

Pedestrian deaths, at 18 for the year so far, have soared past the four-year average

In 2007, 256 people died in crashes on Nebraska roads and highways.

“It certainly is the wrong direction,” AAA Nebraska spokeswoman Rose White said Monday.

A close look at statistics showed increases in fatal urban crashes, motorcycle wrecks and accidents involving pedestrians, said White, who pointed to distracted driving and milder weather as likely contributing factors.

"As early as last week, there were still motorcyclists on the roadway because of our mild temperatures,” White said.

Twenty-six motorcyclists were killed in crashes in Nebraska this year, a 32 percent increase compared to the average for the previous four years, a AAA news release said.

That's the highest number of motorcycle fatalities since 1987, when 31 motorcyclists died, according to the auto club.

Crashes on urban-area roads as well as accidents involving pedestrians also surged this year, which White attributed in part to distractions.

Cellphone-distracted drivers can't see all that's going on around them in cities, where there's already enough to look at on the road, White said.

That may be why pedestrian deaths, at 18 so far, are up 71 percent over the average for the past four years, she said.

Driving while using a cellphone "reduces your ability to see the full scope of what you should be seeing," White said.

"Such as a pedestrian getting ready to cross the street."

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Reach the writer at 402-473-2657 or rjohnson@journalstar.com. On Twitter @LJSRileyJohnson.

Reporter

Riley Johnson reports on breaking news and public safety issues in Lincoln and southeast Nebraska.

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