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NHTSA fatality report not as dire as expected

On October 3, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released data that showed that motor vehicle accident fatalities in West Virginia and around the country fell slightly in 2017. This is news that will likely be welcomed by road safety advocates who were concerned when road death figures rose alarmingly in both 2015 and 2016. NHTSA used data from its Fatality Analysis Reporting System to compile the report. It is a database of traffic accident statistics based on police reports and accident investigations.

Overall, road deaths in the United States fell by 1.8 percent from 37,806 in 2016 to 37,133 in 2017. However, a closer scrutiny of the numbers reveals that fatal accidents involving certain vehicle types actually rose. While deadly van, pickup truck and motorcycle accident fatalities fell by 5.8 percent, 4.5 percent and 3.1 percent respectively, the number of road users killed in crashes involving SUVs rose by 3 percent, and semi-tractor trailer fatalities increased by 5.8 percent.

However, the greatest increases and declines in road deaths were amongst cyclists and road users killed in accidents involving single-unit trucks. Cyclist deaths fell by 8.1 percent in 2017, according to the NHTSA data, but single-unit truck accident fatalities rose by a worrying 18.7 percent. A senior Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration reacted to the report by pointing out that most single-unit trucks weigh less than 26,000 pounds and are not subject to the agency's regulatory oversight.

The accident reports and police investigations that provide FARS with its data may also be used by experienced personal injury attorneys pursuing compensation on behalf of car accident victims. Law enforcement tends to be thorough when injuries are severe, or lives have been lost. The observations of police officers or the evidence gathered at crash scenes may uncover what happened in the seconds before a collision occurred and who was responsible.

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