More Americans losing loved ones to car crashes as traffic deaths rise

For most of the last decade, the United States has made great strides in reducing deaths and injuries from car accidents. But, in May of 2013, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released an official estimate of last year's motor vehicle death total, and it appears the United States has lost some momentum in terms of traffic safety.

More miles traveled, increased motorcycle use contributed to bump in roadway fatalities

According to the NHTSA, motor vehicle traffic fatalities have been declining every year since 2005. This downward trend, however, appears to be at an end. In 2012, an estimated 34,080 people died on the nation's roadways, an increase of 5.3 percent from the previous year. The number of annual traffic deaths in 2012 is the highest total since 2008.

What's behind the increase? There are likely a variety of causes, but government experts have highlighted a few key factors that they believe contributed to the spike in fatalities.

One factor is simply that Americans spent more time on the road in 2012 compared to many previous years, and a higher traffic volume usually means more accidents. Data from the Federal Highway Administration shows that American motorists put on approximately 9.1 billion more miles in 2012 compared to 2011. This 0.3 percent increase in miles traveled was relatively modest, but still a marker of the improving economy and the corresponding jump in discretionary driving.

Motorcycle accidents were cited as another reason for the rise in total traffic deaths. The popularity of motorcycles has grown in recent years, as consumers seek fuel-efficient transportation in the wake of high gas prices but also, given the recovering economy, have more disposable income to devote to purchasing motorcycles. At the same time, many states have begun to relax helmet laws. Motorcycles already provide their operators substantially less protection than cars, and combined with lax helmet use, more motorists trading in four wheels for two translates into a greater number of traffic fatalities.

According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, about 5,000 motorcyclists lost their lives on the road in 2012, representing almost 15 percent of total roadway deaths. This is not only an increase of nine percent over the previous year, but represents the highest proportion of motorcycle deaths to total traffic fatalities in history.

If a serious traffic accident has impacted your life, you need legal help

Losing a loved one in a traffic accident is one of the hardest things a person can go through, and more Americans are now facing the experience. While nothing can replace a loved one, it is important to know that there may be resources available to help you through a difficult time following the loss of a family member.

Whenever another motorist bears responsibility for causing a traffic injury or death, he or she may be held accountable for any resulting damages. Even in single vehicle accidents, sometimes a third party, like the vehicle's manufacturer, the entity responsible for roadway maintenance and design, or the driver's own insurer may be legally obligated to provide compensation.

If one of your family members was killed in a traffic accident, no matter who is responsible for compensating you for your loss, it is important to retain an experienced personal injury attorney in order to secure the full compensation to which you are entitled. Talk to a personal injury attorney to learn more and to begin building your case - and remember, it is always better to seek legal help as soon as possible after an accident.