As traffic fatalities in Connecticut continue to climb this year compared with prior years, state agencies are urging drivers to focus on safety during the holiday season. The Connecticut Department of Transportation said most recent data shows that traffic-related fatalities in the state are up nearly 16 percent from last year, with 290 fatal collisions as of Nov. 12. There were 257 fatal crashes in 2020 and 216 in 2019. \u201cIf you think it seems more dangerous out on Connecticut\u2019s highways and interstates lately, you\u2019re right,\u201d said state DOT Commissioner Joseph Giulietti in a statement on Monday. \u201cIt is a real crisis. It\u2019s happening here and it\u2019s happening across the country. We are seeing an unprecedented increase in fatalities.\u201d Nationally, roughly 20,160 people died in motor vehicle crashes in the first half of the year, up 18.4 percent from last year. The state DOT said that is the largest number of projected fatalities in that time span since 2006. The state agency said the recent rise in traffic deaths can be attributed to a variety of factor, including an increase in speeding during the COVID-19 pandemic. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said driving pattern and behavior in the United States changed \u201csignificantly\u201d during the pandemic, with drastic increases in speeding. The state DOT said this year\u2019s data indicates the state is on track to reach record levels by the end of the year. \u201cDuring the winter months and holiday season, we typically see an increase in crashes and fatalities \u2014 mostly due to impaired driving, distractions and hazardous weather conditions,\u201d Giulietti said. \u201cCombined with the speed and aggressive driving patterns since the start of the pandemic, we are pleading with Connecticut drivers to be more vigilant than ever. We need to do everything we can to stop this trend.\u201d These statistics come ahead of what is expected to be a busy week of holiday traveling, across Connecticut and the nation. AAA said earlier this month that roughly 53 million people are likely to travel for the holiday, about 13 percent more than last year\u2019s number. Of those 53 million travels, about 90 percent or 48.3 million people are expected to driver. That\u2019s 8 percent more than last year, according to AAA.