The roads in Minnesota and around the country are becoming increasingly dangerous according to a fatal accident report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The federal road safety agency says that traffic accidents in the United States claimed the lives of 37,461 people in 2016, which is an increase of 5.6 percent over 2015 figures and the nation's highest road death toll in nine years.
The latest report may be difficult for road safety advocates to explain. A similar rise in crash deaths in 2015 was put down to the popularity of cellphones and a surge in distracted driving, but the 2016 figures indicate that the number of road users killed in this kind of accident actually fell by 2.2 percent from 2015. However, the decrease in distracted driving deaths was more than offset by sharp increases in the number of pedestrians and motorcyclists who lost their lives.
The promise of autonomous vehicle technology in terms of safety has been in the news, and senior figures in the Obama administration believed that further research in this area could help to eliminate accident deaths completely within 30 years. This lofty goal seemed plausible because the vast majority of motor vehicle accidents involve human error of one sort or another, but the autonomous accident avoidance systems currently available seem to have done little to stem the alarming increase in fatalities over the last two years.
Law enforcement authorities generally investigate accidents thoroughly when lives have been lost, and the evidence they uncover can be used in both criminal and civil legal proceedings. However, the burden of proof is not as strict in civil matters as it is in criminal trials. While prosecutors must establish guilt beyond any reasonable doubt, personal injury attorneys representing car accident victims are only required to prove negligence by a preponderance of the evidence.