Fatal car crashes increased 14 percent this year, and texting while driving may be to blame. A new tracking report by the National Safety Council reveals a 14-percent surge in the number of fatal automobile crashes during the first six months of 2015 over the same time period last year. Experts point to a number of contributing factors, but drivers texting behind the wheel carry much of the blame, some say. The rise comes as a surprise for safety officials and insurance professionals who had expected the decade-long trend of year-over-year reductions in fatal crashes to continue. That trend was aided by growing frequency in the use of seatbelts, tougher enforcement of drunk-driving laws and automotive safety improvements including stability-control systems and air bags. Factors driving the increase in accident rates include falling fuel prices paired with ongoing economic recovery, as well as adverse weather in some parts of the country. All of these combined led to a 3.5-percent increase in traffic on America’s roadways, reflecting a record 1.54 trillion miles logged through June, according to research by the Federal Highway Administration. As a result, automobile accident deaths now are expected to exceed 40,000 for the first time since 2007, the NSC says. But not everyone is convinced that the rise in car crash fatalities is simply a matter of numbers. Safety officials and insurance experts point instead to the growth in distracted driving, specifically texting behind the wheel. “If cars are better – and they clearly are – drivers must be worse,” says Warren Buffett, Chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, which owns insurance giant GEICO. He went on to explain to members of the media that the 3.5-percent rise in traffic alone doesn’t seem enough to warrant the 14-percent rise in fatalities. Indeed, statistics show that one in four automobile crashes involves mobile phone use, despite laws banning text messaging and hand-held cellphone use while driving in most states. If you or your dependents are injured in an accident caused by another’s distracted driving, get medical treatment and contact Jacksonville’s Harrell and Harrell at 800-251-1111 to speak with an auto accident attorney.