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Traffic fatalities continue alarming upward trend

Traffic accident deaths in West Virginia and around the country increased alarmingly during 2015 and 2016 despite groundbreaking improvements in automobile safety systems and advances in emergency medical care. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported in January that accident fatalities rose by 8 percent during the first nine months of 2016, and full-year estimates released by the National Safety Council on Feb. 15 provide equally grim reading.

The Illinois-based advocacy group put the number killed on America's roads in 2016 at 40,200. Accident fatalities last exceeded 40,000 in 2007. When death rates surged in 2015, experts said that the falling price of oil and plummeting unemployment rates had resulted in a sharp rise in vehicle traffic. However, the 3 percent increase in traffic volume observed in 2016 is not enough to explain a 6 percent rise in accident deaths according to the NSC. The safety organization says that reckless driver behavior and lax enforcement of traffic laws are also important factors.

An NSC survey seems to back up these arguments. The organization says that a troubling 47 percent of the U.S. drivers they surveyed said they were comfortable texting while behind the wheel, and a quarter of them admitted to regularly ignoring speed limits in residential neighborhoods. One in 10 confessed to driving after consuming alcohol, and 16 percent of the motorists polled said that they sometimes choose not to fasten their safety belts.

Motorists who exceed posted speed limits, use their cellphones while behind the wheel or drive after drinking are often killed in the traffic accidents they cause or face years in jail for their reckless behavior, and this could make filing lawsuits against them seem pointless. However, accident victims may pursue civil remedies even when the negligent party responsible is deceased or incarcerated, and experienced personal injury attorneys in such situations could initiate litigation against the reckless individual's insurance provider or estate.

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