The oldest and youngest drivers are helping cause an increase in U.S. traffic deaths after several years of decline, according to a report by the American Traffic Safety Services Association.

Reporting in advance on the study to be released later Thursday on Capitol Hill, USA Today cites the report as saying there were 41,907 traffic fatalities in 1996, the most recent year available. It was the second straight year the numbers have risen and represents a 7 percent increase over the 39,250 deaths reported six years ago.The association says elderly and teenage drivers traditionally have had higher accident rates than other motorists and now are hitting the roads in record numbers.

It says the number of drivers 65 and over has increased 47 percent since 1985 and that they are 17 times more likely to die in a crash per mile driven than other drivers.

It says that while the number of drivers age 15 to 25 has remained relatively constant at 20 million, the number of miles driven by youngsters has increased more than 15 percent over the past decade. They are four times more likely to die in a car crash than other drivers.

Fred Walston of the Senior Safety Initiative in Washington told the paper the study underscores the need "to recognize the special needs of older drivers" but not to take their licenses away.

The American Traffic Safety Services Association is a privately funded group that reviewed traffic statistics from more than a dozen government agencies.