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Some positive news on 2018 traffic fatality estimates

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates on traffic deaths in 2018 contains some promising news and some bad news. The NHTSA projects a small drop in deaths from car accidents and other vehicle crashes, even as the number of miles driven rose slightly. But, over 100 Americans still die each day in vehicle accidents.

The NHTSA's statistical projection shows that an estimated 36,750 people were killed in vehicle traffic accidents last year. This is a 1% decrease from the 37,133 deaths reported for 2017 and the 37,806 fatalities in 2016. Crash deaths dropped 8% from 2016 to 2018.

This is a welcome change from the statistics reported in 2014 to 2016. That period had an 8% increase in the fatality rate, which was the biggest rise since the 1970s. Distracted driving played a part in that upsurge.

Experts attribute the drop in 2016 to 2018 to better safety technologies. Many of the current car models are equipped with standard safety features, such as automatic emergency braking, which may reduce rear-end collisions that were involved in 1,500 traffic deaths a year. Almost all new vehicles in this country will have this device by 2022. Vehicles are also being equipped with other safety features, including rear cameras, steering assistance which prevents lane drift and a flashing light that warns about a car in the blind spot.

Unfortunately, vehicle accidents persist as being one of this country's major public health threats. The number of traffic fatalities rivals the number of victims killed each year in gun violence. Many traffic deaths are avoidable. Victims of an auto accident caused by an impaired, negligent or distracted driver may be entitled to compensation.

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