Maine has seen a “staggering” surge in fatal car crashes since the start of the year because of Mainers acting recklessly behind the wheel.

That continues a pandemic spike in traffic deaths seen across the county, despite Americans traveling less and staying home more.

In January, there were 13 fatalities from car crashes, up 86 percent from the seven recorded last January. That spike was mirrored in February, when 14 Mainers died in car crashes, up 27 percent from February 2021’s 11. So far this month, there have been five traffic deaths, the same as all of last March, according to the Maine Bureau of Highway Safety.

Fueling those fatalities have been Mainers driving at unsafe and illegal speeds, drunken driving, not wearing seatbelts and other reckless behavior.

“Make safety for yourselves, and all others sharing the road with you, your top priority. No one typically plans to be involved in a serious injury or fatal crash when they leave one destination for another. However, you can always plan to be a safe driver,”  Lauren Stewart, the state’s highway safety director, said Monday morning.

Last year, Maine saw 153 traffic fatalities and 164 the year before.

Nationally, the increase in recklessness behind the wheel has been fueling record fatalities on the country’s roads. Over the first nine months of 2021, there were nearly 32,000 deaths, the highest number recorded over the nine-month period since 2006. In 2020, nearly 39,000 people died in car crashes, up 8 percent over 2019.