Road deaths in Pennsylvania and around the country fell slightly in 2018 according to recently released figures from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, but the agency’s preliminary fatality report also reveals a worrying rise in the number of pedestrians and cyclist killed. Motor vehicle accident fatalities rose sharply in 2015 and 2016 after several decades of gradual decline, and most road safety experts said that cellphone use and distracted driving was largely to blame.

In 2018, 36,750 road users where killed while 37,133 died in 2017, but both of these death tolls represent double-digit increases over the 32,744 fatalities recorded in 2014. When the final figures are in, NHTSA expects them to reveal a 4% increase in pedestrian fatalities and an alarming 10% rise in cyclist deaths. Road deaths in NHTSA’s Region 2, which is made up of Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut fell by 1% in 2018 according to the preliminary fatality report.

The sharp rise in pedestrian and cyclist deaths is likely to prompt further debate over distracted driving and the steps that can be taken to curb it. Experts do not expect the figures to drop without intervention because demographic trends reveal that more Americans are moving to urban areas where pedestrian and bicycle traffic is heavier. In 1996, cyclists, motorcyclists and pedestrians accounted for one in five road deaths. They now account for one in three.

One of the challenges facing car accident investigators and personal injury attorneys is that distracted driving leaves no telltale clues. However, cellphone records and the information stored on automobile data recorders could reveal that motorists were not paying attention when they crashed. When police reports do not contain this information, attorneys may seek court orders to have vehicles inspected and use subpoenas to access wireless service accounts.