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2018 traffic death report has mixed results

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued its report of traffic deaths for 2018. It had positive news regarding car crash deaths involving vehicle occupants which dropped from 2017. But fatal accident deaths involving large trucks, pedestrians and cyclists rose significantly, according to the NHTSA report.

Overall road deaths fell by 2.4 percent but were still an alarming 36,560 in 2018. Overall road deaths also continued a positive trend. These increased in 2014 and 2015 but began to fall by 0.9 percent in 2016.

But pedestrian deaths rose by 3.4 percent, or by an additional 208 fatalities, in 2018. Cyclists also had a bigger 6.3 percent increase or additional 51 deaths in this country. The number of fatalities on vehicle nonoccupants such as motorcyclists, pedestrians and pedal cyclists rose from a low of 20 percent in 1996 to a high of 34 percent last year.

Truck occupant deaths also had a slight 0.8 percent increase. This equals seven more fatalities.

The NHTSA did not cite specific reasons for the rise in nonoccupant fatalities. It pointed out that urban population density attracts vehicle-free mobility and may have led to this increase.

Urban population growth was 13 percent between 2017 and 2018. Since 2009, urban pedestrian fatalities rose by 69 percent while cyclist deaths increased by 48 percent over that time.

These increases occurred even though new vehicles have been equipped with automated emergency braking systems and accident detection devices that recognize pedestrians, bicyclists and other vehicles and objects. However, most cars on the nation's roads do not have this equipment and texting and driving and other distracted driving has increased.

Members of Congress are reviewing measures to reverse this trend in nonoccupant fatalities in addition to existing state laws prohibiting distracted driving. These measures include laws requiring softer noses on vehicles to street designs that improve separation among vehicles, pedestrians and bikes.

Families who suffer the loss of a loved one in a fatal accident involving a reckless or negligent driver may be entitled to compensation. An attorney can help gather evidence and pursue a wrongful death lawsuit.

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