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Road deaths fell but truck accident fatalities rose in 2017

Traffic accident fatalities in North Carolina and around the country rose alarmingly in both 2015 and 2016 after several years of steady decline, but data released recently by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reveals that 2017 was a safer year on the nation's roads. Figures from the federal watchdog's Fatality Analysis Reporting System shows that road deaths fell by 1.8 percent in 2017, but the number of road users killed in accidents involving commercial vehicles surged by 9 percent from 4,369 to 4,761.

During an October 3 conference call, a senior figure at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration pointed out that many of the road users killed in truck accidents in 2017 lost their lives in crashes involving commercial vehicles weighing between 10,000 and 14,000 pounds. Accidents involving such vehicles doubled in 2017, according to the FARS data. This is important because trucks weighing 26,000 pounds or less are not always subject to regulations enforced by the FMCSA.

The 2017 truck accident figures cast a pall over a generally encouraging set of figures. The number of road users killed in passenger vehicle accidents fell by 1.4 percent, and motorcyclist fatalities dropped by 3.1 percent. Year-over-year pedestrian deaths declined by 8.1 percent, and fatalities in speed-related crashes fell by 5.6 percent.

Investigations into fatal truck accidents are generally thorough. When law enforcement uncovers evidence of impairment, fatigue or distraction, accident investigation reports could be used by experienced personal injury attorneys to prove negligence in wrongful death lawsuits filed on behalf of the dependent family members of accident victims. These reports may also reveal signs of neglected maintenance or shoddy repairs, which could prompt lawyers to take legal action against trucking companies for failing to meet their duty of care to protect road users from injury, loss or damage.

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