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NHTSA releases sobering traffic accident fataliies report

The number of people killed in traffic accidents across the country increased alarmingly for the second year in a row according to data contained in a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report released on Oct. 6. Motor vehicle accidents in the United States resulted in more than 37,000 deaths in 2016, many of whom were South Carolina residents, and the rise in fatalities was especially pronounced among the nation's most vulnerable road users.

The NHTSA figures reveal that the number of pedestrians and motorcyclists killed in traffic accidents increased by 9 percent and 5.1 percent respectively in 2016, and most of these fatalities occurred in crashes involving human error. Negligence of some sort is associated with 94 percent of serious traffic accidents, and even autonomous safety systems that are designed to anticipate and prevent accidents with no driver input have done little to stem the increase in highway deaths.

The number of road users killed began to fall steadily in 2007 and reached an all-time low of 32,744 in 2014. These improvements and the promise of self-driving cars prompted the Obama administration to set the lofty goal of eliminating road deaths entirely within three decades, but two consecutive years of sobering NHTSA fatality figures has prompted many safety advocates to question how realistic this target is.

Motorists who act recklessly behind the wheel often fail to fasten their seat belts and are frequently killed in the accidents they cause, and even those who survive may face vehicular manslaughter charges and the prospect of decades in prison. This would seem to make pursuing civil remedies difficult for the dependent family members of their victims, but experienced personal injury attorneys could still seek compensation on their behalf by filing wrongful death lawsuits against the estates or insurance companies of deceased or incarcerated negligent drivers.

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