By TOM KRISHER and HOPE YEN
DETROIT (AP) — Nearly 43,000 people were killed on U.S. roads last year. That’s the highest number in 16 years as Americans returned to the highways after the pandemic forced many to stay at home. Traffic deaths rose 10.5% over 2020, the largest percentage increase since the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration began its fatality data collection in 1975. Preliminary figures from the agency show that 42,915 people died in traffic crashes last year, up from 38,824 in 2020. Final figures will be released in the fall. Americans drove about 325 billion more miles last year than they did in 2020. That’s an 11.2% jump that contributed to the rise in deaths.