U.S. highway deaths dipped last year but hold near decade-high levels

U.S. motor-vehicle deaths declined about 1% last year but remained near decade-high levels as a worrying amount of distractions offsets steps by auto makers to equip cars with more safety features.

The National Safety Council said Thursday that traffic-related fatalities hit an estimated 40,100 last year, the second year in a row the 40,000 mark was surpassed. The 2017 dip followed a surprising 6% spike in 2016.

Auto deaths had steadily declined in the decade leading to 2016. But a surge in driver distraction with device use, increased miles driven and other factors have changed that trend over the past two years.

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