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According to 2018 data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, North Carolina has a higher rate of fatal auto accidents than 45 other U.S. states. More than 1,400 car crash fatalities occurred in the state in 2017 alone.

Here are the statistics behind these catastrophic accidents and ways that people can protect themselves.

Causes of fatal crashes

The NHTSA study found that driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol contributed to 33% of these fatal crashes. Often, DUI leads to reckless driving behaviors such as speeding and failure to yield, which also increase the risk for auto accidents. In fact, speeding occurred in 40% of the fatal accidents. Distracted driving was also a major contributing factor in the high rate of North Carolina auto fatalities, involved in more than 19% of cases reported in 2018.

Strategies to avoid serious injury

In 61% of crashes in the study, the deceased individual was not wearing a seat belt at the time of the accident. Proper safety restraints, including child safety seats, significantly decrease the risk for an auto accident fatality.

Although fatal accidents decreased in most North Carolina counties from 2016 through 2018, Charlotte saw a dramatic increase in catastrophic collisions. Even though pedestrians and bicyclists represent just 3% of those involved in traffic accidents, these individuals make up more than 50% of fatalities in the city. Those who frequently walk or bike in Charlotte should take steps to remain visible to drivers and stay on sidewalks and in designated bike lanes whenever possible.

Compensation after a wrongful death

When people lose their lives in an auto accident, family members may have a legal claim for financial damages such as pain and suffering, lost income, medical and burial expenses associated with the injury, and loss of companionship, services, care and comfort. In North Carolina, people can file a wrongful death lawsuit within two years of a fatal crash caused by another driver.