VALLEY STREAM - The National Safety Council reports that 19,000 people were killed in traffic accidents across the country in the first half of 2016.

That figure is up 9 percent from the same time period in 2015.

The council says a combination of low gas prices, more people on the roads and distracted driving may have contributed to the higher numbers. It predicts that traffic deaths could exceed 40,000 this year for the first time in nine years.

Alec Slatky, of AAA, says distracted driving is at a peak with more people texting and using other technology behind the wheel.

"The sad thing is that vehicles have never been safer -- the enemy is us," says Slatky.

Over the past week alone, eight people were killed in car accidents on Long Island. Police say speeding and drunken driving were possibly involved in those crashes.

The council says this upcoming Labor Day weekend will be a busy and potentially dangerous one for drivers.