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 and per vehicle miles traveled provide a way of examining motor vehicle deaths relative to the population and amount of driving. However, many factors can affect these rates, 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 29,757 fatal motor vehicle crashes in the United States in 2011 in which 32,367 deaths occurred. This resulted in national motor vehicle crash death rates of 10.4 deaths per 100,000 people and 1.1 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled. The fatality rate per 100,000 people ranged from a low of 4.4 in the District of Columbia to a high of 23.8 in Wyoming. The death rates per 100 million vehicle miles traveled ranged from 0.62 in Massachusetts to 1.79 in Montana.
In 2011, the types of motor vehicle crash deaths varied across states. For example, North Dakota had one of the lowest percentages of deaths involving car occupants (28 percent) and the highest percentage of deaths involving occupants of SUVs and pickups (49 percent). In contrast, New Jersey had relatively high proportions of car occupant deaths (41 percent) and pedestrian deaths (23 percent), and a relatively low percentage of deaths involving SUV or pickup occupants (15 percent). The highest percentage of motorcyclist deaths occurred in Hawaii (23 percent), and the percentage of pedestrian deaths was highest in the District of Columbia (30 percent).
Nationwide, 52 percent of passenger vehicle occupant deaths in 2011 occurred in single-vehicle crashes. The highest proportion of passenger vehicle occupant deaths in single-vehicle crashes occurred in South Dakota (67 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 U.S. 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 2011, BAC was reported for 72 percent of fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers. Maine reported BACs for 95 percent of fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers, while Iowa reported BACs for 25 percent. Among the 35 states 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 (65 percent), and Maine had the lowest (14 percent).
Based on daytime observational surveys conducted by the states, the rate of safety belt use among front seat passenger vehicle occupants in 2011 ranged from 73 percent in Massachusetts and South Dakota to 98 percent in Washington.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. 2012. Seat belt use in 2011 — use rates in the states and territories. Report no. DOT HS-811-651. 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, Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington). All of these states had at least 85 percent restraint use in the general population of front seat occupants, according to observational surveys.
Nationwide, 62 percent of passenger vehicle occupant deaths in 2011 occurred in rural areas. The percentage of passenger vehicle occupant deaths on rural roads was 99 percent in Maine, 95 percent in North Dakota and 90 percent in Montana compared with 15 percent in Massachusetts, 14 percent in Rhode Island and none in the District of Columbia.
©1996-2014, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Highway Loss Data Institute | www.iihs.org
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