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Car accident deaths reach 40,000 for the first time in 10 years

Road travel is becoming more hazardous in West Virginia and around the country. Traffic accident deaths increased by 7 percent in 2015 after falling steadily for many years, and data released by the National Safety Council on Feb. 15 reveals that the nation's roads were even more deadly in 2016. The safety advocacy organization reports that motor vehicle accidents in the United States claimed 40,200 lives and cost the economy $432.5 billion in 2016, and some road safety experts say that legislators and law enforcement are not doing enough to keep road users safe.

The increase in road accident deaths has been attributed to an improving economy and falling oil prices, but crash fatality rates increased sharply in 2016 even when the increased traffic levels that more jobs and cheaper gas bring have been taken into consideration. Distracted and intoxicated drivers have also been blamed for making the roads less safe in recent years, but some experts say that these problems have been allowed to fester by cash-strapped police departments and wavering lawmakers.

Almost one in three fatal motor vehicle accidents involves an intoxicated driver, but the National Safety Council's call for comprehensive ignition interlock device laws has been ignored in many parts of the country. In addition, a researcher at the University of Alabama says that speeding goes virtually unchecked on some stretches of highways in that state due to police budget restrictions. Faster cars tend to be involved in more serious collisions, and accident deaths increased significantly in Alabama in 2016 despite a modest 5 percent increase in the number of crashes.

Statistics have shown that the vast majority of car accidents are attributable to human factors. People who have been injured in a collision caused by a driver who was impaired, distracted, speeding or negligent in some other manner may want to have legal help when trying to obtain compensation for their losses.

Source: The New York Times, "U.S. Traffic Deaths Rise for a Second Straight Year", Neil E. Boudette, Feb. 15, 2017

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