The United States experienced an estimated 20 percent jump in the death rate between January and June 2020 compared to the same six-month period in 2019, according to preliminary estimates from the National Safety Council (NSC).

The rate increase comes in spite of a 17 percent drop in the number of miles driven between January and June. The total number of deaths is up one percent from six-month figures in 2019.

According to the NSC, the 20 percent increase in the death rate is the highest six-month period jump since 1999.

“Because of COVID-19 and states’ shelter-in-place orders earlier this year, the country should have reaped a safety benefit from less traffic,” said Lorraine M. Martin, President and CEO of the NSC. “Instead, our soaring rate of deaths speaks to our need to improve safety on our roads. Clearly, we must work harder as a society to reverse this trend, especially since the pandemic is not nearly over.”

The riskier roads threaten to reverse traffic safety gains made over the last few years. After three straight years of rising fatality numbers between 2015 and 2017, the country had been experiencing a leveling off and small decline in overall fatalities.