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NHTSA releases another sobering fatality report

Motor vehicle accident fatalities in Kentucky and across the country have increased alarmingly again according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. NHTSA's latest fatality report reveals that accidents claimed 37,461 lives in 2016, up 5.6 percent from a year earlier. The death toll is the highest in nine years and continues a worrying trend that experts find difficult to explain. When road deaths increased sharply in 2015 after years of gradual decline, the rise was put down to modern cellphones and distracted driving. However, the NHTSA figures indicate that distracted driving deaths actually fell in 2016.

The conversation around the 2016 NHTSA fatality report will likely focus on pedestrian and motorcyclist deaths. The number of pedestrians killed rose by a distressing 9 percent and motorcyclist deaths were up by more than 5 percent. Motorcyclists and pedestrians understand that they are extremely vulnerable and tend to take great care on the roads, and the accidents that kill or seriously injure them are often attributed to driver negligence.

Public information campaigns and stricter laws have done little to change driver behavior, and even advanced safety systems that act autonomously in emergency situations have made little impact on road safety. However, fully autonomous vehicles offer the possibility of a driverless future, and many lawmakers now see the development of self-driving cars as the best hope for reducing highway death rates.

An overwhelming majority of major car accidents are caused by human error, but police reports may not always contain the evidence that is needed to establish negligence in a civil trial. When human error is suspected and accident investigations are inconclusive, experienced personal injury attorneys may gather additional information by visiting accident scenes, re-interviewing witnesses, viewing surveillance or traffic camera footage and scrutinizing cellphone usage records.

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