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Traffic deaths rise with economy

The stronger economy has encouraged motorists to drive more often and more dangerously. The risk of personal injury and dying in a car accident in a late model car has risen slightly according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The overall fatality rate involving 2014 models is 30 per one million registered vehicle years. This is an increase from 28 for 2011 models. This latest study is based upon car crash fatalities that occurred from 2012-2015. In its last study, however, IIHS found that the overall rate dropped by almost a third over a three-year period. This was attributed to improved vehicle designs and safety technology.

These safety improvements have continued but have not led to lower traffic deaths since the last study. While fatalities dropped greatly beginning in 2008, there was a seven percent rise in 2015 compared to 2014. Preliminary data indicates that this will also increase in 2016.

Nevada also suffered a 49 percent rise in crash fatalities from 2014 through 2015. Deaths rose from 291 in 2014 to 325 in 2015.

Higher traffic fatalities predictably follow an improving economy. Vehicle miles and deaths increase as unemployment drops. The federal government forecasts a 1.7 percent annual drop in unemployment from 2014 to 2024. Accordingly, the IIHS predicts that the recent increase in deaths peaked in 2016 and there will be 34,400 traffic fatalities in 2024 compared to 35,092 in 2015. A better economy leads to more driving and riskier discretionary driving such as going out for social events or vacation. Economic changes also impact how fast motorists drive.

The increased use in crash avoidance technology and the development of autonomous vehicles that are intended to eliminate accidents may potentially lower accident rates. However, their full-scale use in all vehicles is decades away. Also, there are continued risks posed by drunk drivers and those who engage in speeding.

The IIHS also reported that smaller vehicles do not protect their occupants as well as larger vehicles. These continue to be the most dangerous and have the highest fatality rates. The 10 lowest-rated vehicle models include five minicars and three small cars.

Regardless of the statistics, individuals who are harmed in a car accident caused by the negligence of another may want to consider their legal options. By successfully pursuing a personal injury lawsuit, these victims may be able to recover compensation for their losses, which can extend to medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

Source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, "On the road again. Higher driver rate is downside of economic recovery," accessed June 4, 2017

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