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The statistical risks of road travel

Thousands of people are killed or injured on the roads of California annually, but the chances of being involved in a fatal motor vehicle accident have fallen sharply in recent years. Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reveals that the number of fatal auto accidents has been declining since 1985, and the number of people killed on the nation's roads fell by about a third between 2011 and 2014.

Auto manufacturers have received much of the credit for these reduced accident fatality rates. Safety is a major concern for many car buyers, and technology such as airbags, anti-lock braking systems and vehicle crumple zones protect vehicle occupants and drive foot traffic to showrooms. Auto industry experts predict that road safety will continue to improve in coming years as even more sophisticated safety technology such as accident avoidance systems become more widely available.

NHTSA data shows that over 33,000 people lost their lives on the nation's roads in 2013, which gave Americans about a one in 77 chance of being killed in a motor vehicle accident. These odds compare well to other hazards such as heart disease that kills a quarter of all Americans or accidents in general that claim the lives of one in 20. The data also shows that motor vehicle occupants have the highest risk of dying in a car crash followed by pedestrians, motorcycle riders and cyclists.

Motorists who cause a fatal accident while distracted, intoxicated or fatigued may face civil as well as criminal sanctions. When these motorists lose their lives in the accidents that they have caused or are incarcerated as a result, a personal injury attorney may seek civil remedies for accident victims by filing a lawsuit against their estates or insurance companies.

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