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Road deaths leveling off so far this year, still far too high

The National Safety Council has issued a preliminary estimate of the number of traffic fatalities so far in 2017. The good news is that the number is down 1 percent over last year's number from the same period. The unfortunate news is that the U.S. is still recovering from the highest two-year increase since at least 1964. That leaves us with an 8-percent higher death rate in the first half of this year than the same period in 2015.

Even more troubling, the second half of the year -- July through December -- tends to be deadlier than the first half.

The National Safety Council estimates that as many as 40,000 people were killed in 2016. That was 6 percent more than in 2015 and represented the largest two-year jump in deaths in over 50 years. These estimates are likely to vary slightly upward or downward as the data mature.

How many people have died on our roadways this year? The National Safety Council has been tracking fatality trends for nearly 100 years, and it estimates that 18,680 fatalities have already occurred so far. They also estimate that some 2.1 million people have been injured in traffic accidents. The total financial cost of those injuries and losses is approximately $191 billion, and that doesn't begin to cover the human cost.

The group believes that several factors are at play. For example, an improved economy and lower gas prices have fueled a 1.7-percent increase in the total number of miles Americans drove between 2016 and 2017. More miles on the road usually translates to more traffic crashes.

"The price of our cultural complacency is more than a hundred fatalities each day," said the National Safety Council's President and CEO. "Although the numbers may be leveling off, the Road to Zero deaths will require accelerating improvements in technology, engaging drivers and investing in our infrastructure."

Each of us has a role to play in preventing serious and deadly motor vehicle wrecks. Avoiding distraction, drinking and drugs while driving is crucial, but it may not be enough. As the National Safety Council implies, some traffic accidents are caused by infrastructure issues, and better safety technology can help reduce the number and severity of these accidents.

If you or a loved one has suffered in a motor vehicle wreck, we urge you to reach out to a personal injury attorney who can evaluate your situation and let you know if you have a case.

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