Crashes took 35,092 lives in the U.S. in 2015.
The number and type of motor vehicle crash deaths differ widely among the 50 states and the District of Columbia. A state's population has an obvious effect on the number of motor vehicle deaths. Fatality rates per capita provide a way of examining motor vehicle deaths relative to a state's population. However, many factors can affect these rates, including amounts and types of travel, types of vehicles driven, higher speed traffic, rates of licensure, state traffic laws, emergency care capabilities, weather, and topography.
The following facts are based on analysis of data from the U.S. Department of Transportation's Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS).
There were 34,017 fatal motor vehicle crashes in the United States in 2008 in which 37,261 deaths occurred. This resulted in a national motor vehicle death rate of 12.3 deaths per 100,000 people. Motor vehicle death rates varied among states from a low of 5.6 deaths per 100,000 people in Massachusetts, to a high of 29.8 deaths per 100,000 people in Wyoming.
States with lowest and highest rates of motor vehicle crash deaths per 100,000 people, 2008
In 2008, the types of motor vehicle crash deaths varied across states. For example, New Mexico had the lowest percentage of deaths involving car occupants (28 percent) and the highest percentage of deaths involving occupants of SUVs and pickups (40 percent). In contrast, New York had relatively high proportions of car occupant deaths (43 percent) and pedestrian deaths (24 percent), and a relatively low percentage of deaths involving SUV or pickup occupants (11 percent). The highest percentage of motorcyclist deaths occurred in New Hampshire (22 percent), and the percentage of pedestrian deaths was highest in the District of Columbia (26 percent).
Nationwide, 53 percent of passenger vehicle occupant deaths in 2008 occurred in single-vehicle crashes. The highest proportions of single-vehicle crash deaths occurred in Rhode Island (66 percent) and South Carolina (64 percent).
Some states report blood alcohol concentration (BAC) for only a small percentage of fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers. If BAC is missing for a driver, it is imputed by the US Department of Transportation’s multiple imputation model. Subramanian, R. 2002. Transitioning to multiple imputation — a new method to impute missing blood alcohol concentration (BAC) values in FARS. Report no. DOT HS-809-403. Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. However, BAC information is most precise in states that report a high percentage of BACs. In the following table, estimated percentages of fatally injured drivers with BACs at or above 0.08 percent are shown only for states in which BAC reporting was 70 percent or higher. Estimated percentages are based on known BAC when available and imputed BAC for the remaining drivers.
For the nation in 2008, BAC was reported for 70 percent of fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers. Maine reported BACs for 95 percent of fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers, while Alaska reported BACs for 23 percent. Among states with reporting rates of at least 70 percent, Wyoming (50 percent) had the highest estimated percentage of fatally injured drivers with BACs of 0.08 percent or higher, and Vermont (22 percent) had the lowest.
When examining restraint use among fatally injured motor vehicle occupants, it is important to note that percentages will be lower than observed restraint use because unrestrained occupants are more likely than restrained occupants to be fatally injured. Restrained occupants include occupants in child safety seats and occupants restrained by safety belts.
The percentage of fatally injured passenger vehicle occupants who were restrained in 2008 varied by state. Tennessee (15 percent) and West Virginia (15 percent) had the lowest percentages of fatally injured occupants who were restrained, and California had the highest (58 percent). The District of Columbia (29 percent) had the highest proportion of unknowns. For the nation, 42 percent of fatally injured occupants were restrained.
Sixty-two percent of passenger vehicle occupant deaths in 2008 occurred in rural areas. The states with the greatest proportion of passenger vehicle occupant deaths on rural roads were New Hampshire and South Carolina (96 percent).
©1996-2016, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Highway Loss Data Institute | www.iihs.org
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