The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said 43,443 people were killed on the highways last year, up 1.4 percent from 42,836 in 2004. It was the highest number of fatalities in a single year since 1990, when 44,599 people were killed.
The fatality rate also grew slightly to 1.47 deaths per 100 million miles traveled, an increase from 1.45 in 2004. It was the first increase in the fatality rate since 1986.
"We have no tolerance for any numbers higher than zero," said Acting Transportation Secretary Maria Cino. "Motorcyclists need to wear their helmets, drivers need to buckle up, and all motorists need to stay sober."
The annual report found that motorcycle fatalities rose for the eighth straight year, growing 13 percent since 2004. The government said 4,553 motorcyclists died in 2005, compared with 4,028 in 2004. Nearly half of the people who died were not wearing helmets.
Pedestrian deaths increased from 4,675 in 2004 to 4,881 in 2005. NHTSA said it was investigating the increase to try to learn what led to the growth.