According to the National Safety Council, 2018 is the third straight year that traffic deaths in the U.S. topped 40,000. That year additionally saw 4.5 million people in North Carolina and across the nation seriously injured in crashes: a 1 percent increase from 2017. Traffic death rates differed between states with eight states experiencing a 5.8 percent rise from 2016 to 2018.

Though the NSC data does not reveal causation, driver behavior appears to be behind these high numbers. Distracted driving was to blame for around 8 percent of crashes and drowsy driving for an additional 2 percent. Far more drivers own smartphones than in years past, and far more vehicles come with in-dash infotainment systems; both devices are major sources of distraction.

Advanced safety systems offer hope for a reduction in these numbers. Automatic emergency braking, though still a rarity, is more common than it was a decade ago. Pedestrian detection and avoidance systems, on the other hand, are still in their infancy. Once they have been fine-tuned, they can do much to prevent pedestrian collisions, which tend to occur in urban areas at low speeds.

Volvo, Mercedes-Benz, Subaru and other automakers are focusing on cyclist and pedestrian detection. In 2018, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety began testing the effectiveness of AEB and pedestrian detection. Current products vary in performance.

Drivers should remember, though, that safety tech is meant to assist them, not substitute for them. Should negligence lead to an accident, victims may be able to file a claim under auto accident law. North Carolina bars recovery for victims who contribute even 1 percent to a crash, however, so it may be a good idea to have a lawyer evaluate the case beforehand. Personal injury lawyers might have teams of investigators and other experts to gather the necessary proof.