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Motor vehicle fatalities down, but deaths rise for trucks

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has released figures for fatal motor vehicle accidents in 2017. In 2015 and 2016, fatalities rose, but it appears that trend began to reverse in 2017. However, based on the report, people in New Mexico may be safer from fatal crashes in rural areas than urban ones. This is a departure from 2015 and earlier years when there were more fatal motor vehicle accidents in rural locations.

In 2017, crashes were down about 2 percent, but in several categories, they went up. In SUVs, fatalities were up 3 percent. For tractor-trailer crashes, deaths were up almost 6 percent, and in large straight truck accidents, fatalities were up more than 18 percent. Not all of the large truck accidents were commercial vehicles. All trucks that weigh over 10,000 pounds are included in this classification, so this includes vehicles such as dual-wheeled pickups.

The increase in this class of vehicles is partly because there are more of them on the road due to a better economy. However, seat belt compliance is also a problem. Compared to 2016, 16 percent more people who were killed in large trucks were not wearing seat belts. Other changes include more drivers with drugs in their systems, fewer drivers under the influence of alcohol, less speeding and fewer pedestrian fatalities.

However, motor vehicle accidents are continuing to happen, and even when they are not fatal, they can be very serious. If people are injured in these accidents and they are caused by a driver who is speeding, driving under the influence or negligent in some other way, that driver is usually considered financially liable for the person's medical expenses. If the driver is operating a commercial vehicle at the time, the company the driver is working for may also be liable.

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