Some 1,780 people died on Britain's roads last year - 49 more than the previous year, new figures suggest.
Provisional data from the Department for Transport (DfT) showed the 3% rise came alongside a 2.2% increase in traffic in the 12 months to September.
AA president Edmund King said the death toll was the "equivalent of three plane crashes" and called for more action.
Separate DfT figures suggest about 240 deaths in 2014 involved drivers over the legal alcohol limit.
Officials said the rise in deaths in the year ending September 2015 was not "statistically significant" - meaning the increase was "probably to do with a combination of factors that have come about by chance, rather than any specific change".
Steve Gooding, director of automotive research charity the RAC Foundation, said: "Forty-nine more people dying on the roads might not be statistically significant, but try telling that to their family and friends.
"It is true that traffic is on the rise again and that might partly explain why the downward trend in road deaths has plateaued in recent years.
"But the pressing question is: what do we now do to get back on track?"
Neil Greig, the Institute of Advanced Motorists' director of policy and research, said that although drink-drive deaths were "flatlining", the numbers were still "unacceptable".
He called for the drink-drive limit elsewhere in Britain to be lowered to be in line with Scotland. In 2014, the Scottish government reduced the limit from 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood to 50mg.
The DfT said the new estimated figure of 240 road deaths involving people over the legal alcohol limit in 2014 meant the level was unchanged from 2013.
Roads Minister Andrew Jones said: "Britain continues to have some of the safest roads in the world but we cannot be complacent on road safety and are determined to do more.
"We launched our road safety plan last year which includes plans for tougher penalties for people using mobile phones while driving, extra money to crack down on drug-drivers and funding to train the next generation of cyclists."