U.S. traffic deaths jumped 5.6 per cent in 2016 to a decade-high of 37,461, and pedestrians killed rose nine per cent to 5,987, the highest number since 1990, the U.S. auto safety agency said on Friday.

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said overall traffic deaths rose 2.6 per cent, outpacing the increase in miles driven in 2016. This was the second straight year of a sharp rise in U.S. traffic deaths.

In 2015, they rose 8.4 per cent, the single highest yearly jump in motor vehicle deaths since 1964. Before 2015 U.S. traffic deaths had been falling for a decade as automakers added anti-rollover technologies and more air bags, the agency said in a report.

The last time traffic deaths were higher was in 2007, when 41,259 were killed on U.S. roads. Bicyclist deaths rose 1.3 per cent to the highest number since 1991, the data showed.

The numbers are generally in line with a report published earlier this year by the Governors Highway Safey Association.

Effect on self-driving car push unclear

Deaths involving distracted drivers fell by 2.2 per cent to 3,450 deaths, while drowsy deaths decreased by 3.5 per cent. Distractions include talking or texting on the phone, eating, drinking and fiddling with the stereo or navigation system.

Drunk driving deaths rose 1.7 per cent to 10,497 and speeding-related deaths increased four per cent to 10,111. The agency said 2,500 deaths would have been prevented if all occupants wore safety belts.

The report may provide more ammunition for automakers and technology companies which are pushing Congress to pass legislation to help speed self-driving cars to market. A Senate committee unanimously passed such legislation earlier this week.

Reuters reported on Friday that the Trump administration had not nominated a candidate to head the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which remains without much of its permanent leadership team.

The most recent motor vehicle fatalities released in Canada, from Transport Canada in conjunction with the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators, recorded 1,858 fatalities in 2015, up 0.3 per cent from the previous year.

There were 283 pedestrian deaths in 2015 according to the Canadian data, the lowest total in the previous five-year span.