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Traffic accident deaths rise alarmingly for the second year

California residents may recall President Obama setting a goal last year to eliminate traffic accident deaths within 30 years. It was hoped that the advent of autonomous vehicle technology would eliminate the human error thought to be responsible for most highway crashes, but figures released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on Oct. 6 suggest that sophisticated accident avoidance and prevention systems have done little to stem a worrying increase in fatal accidents.

According to the NHTSA report, motor vehicle accident fatalities increased by 5.6 percent in 2016 to 37,461. This alarming rise comes at a time when automobiles are safer than they have ever been and public information campaigns relentlessly remind motorists of the dangers of negligent driving behavior. Highway deaths began falling in 2007 and reached their lowest point in 2014, but they have now risen sharply for two consecutive years.

The data also reveals a disturbing increase in deadly accidents involving the most vulnerable road users. Pedestrian deaths increased by a sobering 9 percent in 2016, and the number of motorcyclists killed on the nation's roads rose by 5.1 percent. However, the NHTSA report did contain some positive news. Distracted driving deaths, which had been widely blamed for the increase in road deaths in 2015, actually fell by 2.2 percent in 2016 according to the federal agency.

The surviving family members of people who lose their lives in automobile accidents often face considerable financial stress. Bills can accumulate quickly when the financial contributions of the decedent are no longer available, and unexpected costs such as funeral and burial expenses can make a difficult situation even more dire. When fatal accidents are caused by the negligent behavior of another motorist, experienced personal injury attorneys may seek compensation for those and other losses by pursuing wrongful death lawsuits against the at-fault drivers.

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