The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) is reporting a disturbing trend on its highways: an increase in vehicular crash deaths.

PennDOT said the Commonwealth’s highway fatalities climbed to 1,324 in 2010, an increase of 68 from 2009, according to Acting PennDOT Secretary Barry Schoch. However, while still too high, the level remains well below those reported several decades ago, he stressed: For example, in 1990, there were 1,646 traffic deaths in Pennsylvania, while in 1970, there were 2,255 fatalities.

Unbuckled fatalities increased to 524 last year, up from 451 in 2009, as the seat-belt use rate in Pennsylvania reached 86% in 2010.

Fatalities in crashes that involved a 16- or 17-year-old driver increased from 40 in 2009 to 57 last year, while highway fatalities involving drivers aged 65 and older dropped from 276 to 266 within the same time period.

Alcohol-related deaths increased from 442 in 2009 to 444 last year, fatalities in work zones dropped to 21 in 2010 from 23 a year earlier, speeding-related jumped from 231 in 2009 to 284 in 2010, while aggressive-driving-related deaths increased from 130 to 168.