Crashes on New Brunswick roads killed 64 people last year, including 20 people who were not using seatbelts, a new report by the RCMP says.

Overall, there were 58 fatal collisions in 2016, up from 50 the previous year, the report said.

Fatal crashes that involved impaired driving declined to 17 last year from 20 the year before.

Fatal crashes where the victims were not restrained by seatbelts rose to 20 from 14.

The number of pedestrians and cyclists killed in accidents tripled, to nine from three.

RCMP say they conducted 5,000 check stops, stopping nearly 260,000 vehicles and charging 890 people with impaired driving, including 316 who also got roadside suspensions.

Distracted driving does not appear as a category in the list of causes of fatal crashes, but it was the reason for 645 of the  23,000 tickets issued by the Mounties in 2016.

New Burnswick recently passed Ellen's law, which says a motorist must give a cyclist a metre of space when sharing the road with them. Failing to do so carries a $172.50 fine

Cpl. Jullie Rogers-Marsh, a spokesperson for the New Brunswick RCMP, said every death on the road is a tragedy.

She said RCMP will continue to stop offenders.

"It's continuing on what we've already been doing, we continue to patrol the roadways and highways and continue enforcement campaigns," Rogers-Marsh said.

But the RCMP cannot be everywhere all the time, she said, and members of the public can help by callling 911 if they suspect someone of impaired driving.

Michael Boudreau, a criminology professor at St. Thomas University, predicted more challenges ahead for police. 

Michael Boudreau

Michael Boudreau, a criminology professor at St. Thomas University, said the lack of public transportation in rural areas in New Brunswick and else where can lead to a culture of drinking and driving but shouldn't be used an excuse. (CBC)

A lack of reliable public transportation leads people to get behind the wheel when they shouldn't, he said.

"Despite years of public education, campaigns on the part of RCMP, municipal policing, organizations like MADD, the message is getting through, but it isn't getting through," Boudreau said.

He suggested the link to few transportation options is especially strong in small towns and rural New Brunswick but said this shouldn't be an an excuse for driving while impaired.

"People can't turn to public transit. As a result they just drive." 

It's frustrating to police that people continue to drive dangerously, despite all the campaigns.

"They cannot be stopping cars on a daily basis," Boudreau said. "Yes, they do road stops, [but] unless the police are going to do that constantly and take time away from other investigations, sadly this is going to continue."

He said ultimately it comes down to individuals choosing the right thing, including driving with a seatbelt and not driving while impaired.

Harsher punishment might help combat the problem.

"It's that kind of severe punishment, like loss of driving privileges, that may finally send the message," he said.

Some changes are already coming for those found impaired behind the wheel.

On Nov. 1 several drunk-driving penalties will be put in place, including: impounding vehicles, longer suspensions for repeatedly blowing a warning level on a breathalyze, and mandatory ignition interlock devices.

"That's really difficult to explain to your family, to your employer, and so that's the game changer," Andrew Murie, CEO of MADD Canada said of the devices.