Minnesotans may have heard that traffic fatalities have decreased significantly over the past 10 years. In 2015, however, the country experienced the largest single-year increase in traffic deaths since the late 1960s.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 35,092 people were killed in motor vehicle collisions in 2015. This number was an increase of 7.2 percent over the number of traffic fatalities that occurred in 2014. In 2005, the number of traffic deaths was 25 percent higher at 42,708. However, safety experts are still concerned about the substantial single-year increase.
The traffic fatality numbers have decreased because of advancements in safety features, fewer drunk drivers and better use of seat belts. The U.S. Transportation Secretary says that 2015's increase is due to several different factors, including an increased number of travelers, lower gas prices and better economic conditions leading more people to drive to work. He also indicated that several driving behaviors have contributed to traffic fatalities. Distracted driving was involved in 10 percent of 2015's fatal accidents, and 30 percent of the crashes involved speeding or drunk drivers. Half of the fatalities involved passengers who were not wearing seat belts.
The law allows the family members of a car accident victim to file a wrongful death civil lawsuit against any negligent parties who may be responsible for the fatal crash. Civil lawsuits and criminal cases operate under two different bodies of law and have differing burdens of proof that are required. In a civil lawsuit, plaintiffs must be able to establish their cases by a preponderance of the evidence.