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Accident death rates continue to climb

California drivers might find it sobering to hear that the number of people killed in traffic accidents around the country increased for the second year in a row according to a report released on Oct. 6 by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The agencyrevealed that fatal motor vehicle crashes claimed 37,461 lives in 2016. The figure represents a 5.6 percent year-over-year increase and is the highest highway death toll in nine years.

Cellphone use and other driver distractions have been widely blamed for the increase in auto accident fatalities, but the NHTSA data indicates that distracted driving deaths actually fell by 2.2 percent in 2016. However, this drop was more than offset by a 9 percent jump in pedestrian deaths, a 5.1 percent surge in the number of motorcycle fatalities and a 4 percent increase in the number of people killed in accidents involving excessive speed.

The NHTSA report comes at a time when new automobiles feature a dizzying array of sophisticated safety features that can sometimes even anticipate and avoid crashes. Several manufacturers are working to further improve autonomous vehicle technology and develop a self-driving car, and experts believe that this research could one day eliminate the human error that is responsible for causing an overwhelming 94 percent of all serious accidents.

People who are harmed by the negligence of other drivers may pursue civil remedies to cover their lost income and the costs of their medical treatment and other expenses, but police reports may not always provide the evidence needed to establish financial responsibility in car accident lawsuits. In these situations, experienced personal injury attorneys may perform additional inquiries. These efforts could include canvassing the area for witnesses that may have been overlooked by police and checking cellphone usage data of the driver in question.

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