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The most dangerous states to drive in (Excerpt)

The most dangerous states to drive in (Excerpt)


USA Today

By Sam Stebbins, 24/7 Wall St.

December 1, 2015

The number of fatal injuries resulting from motor vehicle accidents has dropped significantly over the last 10 years. In 2003, 42,884 were killed in motor vehicle accidents. By 2013, that number dropped to 32,719. While the death rate across the country for 2013 was roughly one out of every 10,000 U.S. residents, the fatality rate varied considerably state by state.


Only Texas had more than 3,000 fatal road accidents. However, after adjusting for population, many states had a significantly higher rate of fatal accidents than Texas. To rank the most dangerous states to drive in, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed state by state fatality data from the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) along with rural and urban travel data provided by theFederal Highway Administration (FHA). With 22.6 roadway fatalities for every 100,000 residents, Montana is the most dangerous state in the country to drive. By contrast, the corresponding rate in Massachusetts is 4.9 fatalities for every 100,000 residents, making it the safest state in the country to drive.


Many of the most dangerous states to drive in share several characteristics. In an interview with 24/7 Wall St., Russ Rader, a spokesman for the IIHS, explained that the most significant factor that differentiates the safest states from the most dangerous ones is how urban or rural it is. According to Rader, nearly across the board, “rural states have higher fatality rates than urban ones.”


In fact, in four out of the five most most dangerous states, well over half of all miles driven in 2013 were in rural areas. By contrast, in 22 of the 25 safest states, less than half of all miles driven were through rural areas. Rader explained that this makes a difference because on rural roads, “speeds are higher and there are more two lane roads (where) risk is greater for head-on collisions.” By contrast, in urban areas, “speeds are lower, there’s more congestion, and that means that fatal crashes are less likely.”


The choices an individual makes as a driver or passenger of a vehicle also matter a great deal. One of the most obvious ways to reduce the likelihood of a fatality in the event of an accident is to buckle up. Seatbelt use tends to be lower in states with the highest rate of roadway fatalities, and the opposite is true in states with the lowest rates of death on the road. Nationwide, about 87% of people use a seatbelt when riding in a passenger vehicle. In 10 of the 15 safest states to drive in, seatbelt use is greater than or equal to the national rate. Conversely, seatbelt use is below the national rate in 12 of the 15 most dangerous states, including Idaho, where only 62% of residents buckle up, the lowest rate of any state in the country.


Impaired driving is another major contributor to roadway fatalities. Of the 15,530 drivers killed in 2013, 11,126 had alcohol in their system, or 72%. In West Virginia, 95% of those killed behind the wheel had been drinking, the highest share of any state in the country. In fact, seven of the 10 most dangerous states to drive, including West Virginia, had a higher share of drivers killed with alcohol in their system than the corresponding national share of 72%.


To rank the safest and most dangerous states to drive in, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed state by state fatality data from the IIHS along with urban and rural travel data provided by the FHA, each for 2013. The number of fatal roadway deaths was then adjusted for population, noted as fatalities per 100,000 residents. Penalties for alcohol impaired driving by state were provided by WalletHub. Fatal injuries due to vehicle accidents include pedestrian and cyclist fatalities.