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Motorcycle and pedestrian fatalities rose in 2016

The number of people killed in automobile accidents in Georgia and around the country has risen alarmingly for the second consecutive year. A report published on Oct. 6 by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reveals that 37,461 lives were lost on the nation's roads in 2016, and a closer scrutiny of the figures indicates that fatalities were particularly high among the most vulnerable road users.

There have not been traffic fatality figures this high since 41,259 died in car accidents in 2007. The death toll then fell steadily and reached its lowest point in 2014, but even the development of sophisticated automobile safety systems and more rigorous law enforcement has not been enough to prevent road deaths rising sharply in both 2015 and 2016. The 2015 surge in accident deaths was blamed on cellphone use and an epidemic of distracted driving, but the 2016 NHTSA data indicates that other factors are behind the fatality figures.

While distracted driving deaths were down by 2.2 percent in 2016 according to the NHTSA report, fatal accidents involving motorcyclists and pedestrians were up by 5.1 percent and 9 percent respectively. Human error is the cause of the overwhelming majority of serious crashes, and many road safety advocates and lawmakers believe that the introduction of fully autonomous vehicles offers the best hope of reducing accident deaths in the future.

Even minor accidents can cause debilitating injuries when pedestrians, cyclists or motorcyclists are involved. Police reports may not always contain the information needed to establish negligence in car accident lawsuits, and personal injury attorneys may conduct additional inquiries to gather the evidence required to advocate effectively on behalf of their clients. In addition to canvassing the accident site for surveillance cameras and witnesses that may not have spoken with the police, attorneys could also check cellphone records or vehicle electronic data for indications that drivers may have been distracted at the time of the collision.

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