Traffic death rates higher in Northern Plains, South

July 16, 2014 by Bernie Degroat, University of Michigan
Fatality rates per distance driven in the individual states, 2012.

While road safety nationwide has improved greatly in the last decade, traffic fatality rates are still generally higher in the Northern Plains and southern states than in the Northeast, Midwest and West, says a University of Michigan researcher.

Michael Sivak, research professor at the U-M Transportation Research Institute, examined individual per distance driven and per population in all 50 and the District of Columbia in 2012 (the latest available year) and 2005 (a recent peak).

Although across the nation are down about 23 percent since 2005, Sivak said that fatality rates vary greatly by region.

The District of Columbia (4.2), Massachusetts (6.2) and Minnesota (6.9) have the lowest fatality rates per 1 billion miles, while the highest rates are in West Virginia (17.6), South Carolina(17.6) and Montana (17.3). The lowest fatality rates per 100,000 people are also in the District of Columbia (2.4) and Massachusetts (5.3), as well as in New York (6.0). The highest rates are in North Dakota (24.3), Wyoming (21.3) and Montana (20.4).

The greatest reductions in fatalities per distance driven from 2005 to 2012 occurred in the District of Columbia (down 68 percent), Nevada (down 48 percent) and Idaho (down 39 percent), while the only states that registered increases were Vermont (up 13 percent), North Dakota (up 4 percent) and Maine (up 2 percent).

Likewise, the percentage decrease between 2005 and 2012 in the fatality rate per population was highest in the District of Columbia (down 73 percent), Nevada (down 47 percent) and Idaho (down 40 percent). North Dakota (up 26 percent) and Vermont (up 5 percent) were the only states that saw increases.

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