Crashes took 33,561 lives in the U.S. in 2012.
The number and types 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, travel speeds, 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 30,797 fatal motor vehicle crashes in the United States in 2009 in which 33,808 deaths occurred. This resulted in a national motor vehicle death rate of 11 deaths per 100,000 people. Motor vehicle death rates varied among states from a low of 4.8 deaths per 100,000 people in the District of Columbia, to a high of 24.6 deaths per 100,000 people in Wyoming.
States with lowest and highest rates of motor vehicle crash deaths per 100,000 people, 2009
In 2009, the types of motor vehicle crash deaths varied across states. For example, Wyoming had the lowest percentage of deaths involving car occupants (27 percent) and the highest percentage of deaths involving occupants of SUVs and pickups (55 percent). In contrast, New Jersey had relatively high proportions of car occupant deaths (46 percent) and pedestrian deaths (27 percent), and a relatively low percentage of deaths involving SUV or pickup occupants (11 percent).The highest percentage of motorcyclist deaths occurred in Hawaii (28 percent), and the percentage of pedestrian deaths was highest in the District of Columbia (48 percent).
Nationwide, 53 percent of passenger vehicle occupant deaths in 2009 occurred in single-vehicle crashes. The highest proportions of single-vehicle crashes occurred in Wyoming (70 percent) and South Dakota (71 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 passenger vehicle 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 2009, BAC was reported for 71 percent of fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers. Hawaii reported BACs for 97 percent of fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers, while Mississippi reported BACs for 23 percent. Among the 34 states and the District of Columbia with reporting rates of at least 70 percent, Hawaii had the highest estimated percentage of fatally injured drivers with BACs of 0.08 percent or higher (68 percent), and New Hampshire had the lowest (21 percent).
Based on daytime observational surveys conducted by the states, the rate of seatbelt use among front seat passenger vehicle occupants in 2009 ranged from 68 percent in Wyoming to 98 percent in Michigan.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. 2010. Seat belt use in 2009 — use rates in the states and territories. Report no. DOT HS-811-324. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Transportation.
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 in a crash. Restrained fatally injured occupants include occupants in child safety seats and occupants restrained by safety belts.
Nine states had at least 50 percent restraint use among fatally injured passenger vehicle occupants (California, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, and Washington). All of these states had at least 88 percent restraint use in the general front seat population.
Sixty-three percent of passenger vehicle occupant deaths in 2009 occurred in rural areas. All the passenger occupant deaths in New Hampshire occurred on rural roads compared with 10 percent in Massachusetts and zero deaths in the District of Columbia.
©1996-2014, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Highway Loss Data Institute | www.iihs.org
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