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Economic prosperity blamed for surge in accident deaths

The roads in Oklahoma and other U.S. states have become more congested, and this has led to an alarming increase in traffic accident fatalities. Experts say that Americans are traveling more because the economy is performing well and gas prices are low, and they expect growth to continue for the next few years. This has road safety advocates concerned because advances in vehicle design and safety technology do not seem to be enough to keep road deaths in check.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety once concluded that improvements in automotive safety features were largely responsible for reducing driver deaths by about a third, but the nonprofit group now concedes that even the latest accident avoidance systems did not prevent traffic accident fatalities from increasing by 7 percent in 2015 from the previous year. Figures from NHTSA's Fatality Analysis Reporting System suggest that the final death toll for 2016 will be even higher.

While modern passenger vehicles contain an impressive array of safety equipment, they are often smaller and lighter than the cars and SUVs Americans were driving just a few years ago. The IIHS tracks accident and fatality data for individual models and entire vehicle segments, and its research indicates that lighter and more fuel efficient cars with advanced safety systems may not be much safer in real-world driving conditions than older and heavier vehicles.

An epidemic of distracted driving is also causing car accident fatalities to rise. However, establishing that a motorist was distracted can be difficult for attorneys who are representing injured victims. When accident investigations and police reports do not draw firm conclusions, attorneys may study cellphone records and the data stored on automotive electronics systems to better understand the sequence of events and provide evidence of distraction.

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