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Traffic accident deaths up sharply again

North Carolina motorists may have noticed that the roads have become far busier in recent years. American drivers covered 50.5 billion more miles between January and June 2016 than they did during the first six months of 2015, and this increased traffic congestion contributed to a 10 percent surge in accident fatalities according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration over the equivalent period in 2015. A NHTSA report released on Oct. 5 revealed that 17,775 people died in motor vehicle accidents during the first half of the year, which puts 2016 on pace to be the deadliest year on the nation's roads in five decades.

The Department of Transportation reacted to the sobering figures by announcing a bold goal. The Swedish government managed to cut fatality rates by more than 50 percent over 15 years, but the DOT hopes to eliminate traffic accident deaths entirely within three decades. Experts say that this goal could actually be achievable thanks to self-driving cars that have the potential to eliminate the human error that plays a role in 94 percent of car accidents.

While companies like Google and Uber work on perfecting their autonomous vehicles, the DOT will focus on public awareness campaigns designed to convince more vehicle occupants to buckle up and fewer drivers to get behind the wheel after drinking. However, not all government efforts in this area have been received warmly. A law passed by Congress in 2015 requires all federal highway funding to be spent on infrastructure projects, but experts say that money should also be spent on behavioral studies that could lower traffic accident deaths across the country.

Losing a loved on in a fatal motor vehicle accident can be devastating both emotionally and financially. While attorneys may not be able to help the dependent family members of fatal crash victims to come to terms with their grief, they could initiate wrongful death lawsuits on their behalf if negligence of another driver was the cause. In addition to compensation for expenses such as funeral and burial costs and burial bills, the survivors could seek damages to cover the contributions that the decedent had been making to the household budget.

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