University of Michigan: US Roads Are Safer

University of Michigan: US Roads Are Safer
  • Opening Intro -

    American highways and byways take the lives of tens of thousands of people each year.

    A number of factors are at play here including: drunk driving, inexperienced drivers and poor road conditions.


In recent years we have seen a dramatic drop in fatalities, with today’s improved safety equipped passenger vehicles playing no small part in that effort.


A University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute study (Road Safety in the Individual U.S. States: Current Status and Recent Changes) released this week revealed that US road safety has improved substantially. Researchers looked at data from 2012 (the latest available year) and 2005, finding that fatalities dropped by 22.7 percent across that span.

The researchers looked at data from the individual states and the District of Columbia, and also examined a pair of important measures: fatalities per distance driven and fatalities per population.

Nevada recorded the most significant drop, with fatalities falling by 39.6 percent. Fatalities in Mississippi fell by 37.5 percent, followed by New Hampshire down by 34.9 percent, Missouri at 34.3 percent and California down by 34 percent. Fatalities in the District of Columbia tumbled by 68.8 percent.

Living Dangerous in North Dakota

Not all states saw decreases. One huge exception was North Dakota where traffic fatalities surged by 38.2 percent. The Peace Garden State is also experiencing a population surge, attracting tens of thousands of people in recent years to work in that state’s booming shale-oil industry.

Vermont also saw an increase in traffic fatalities from 2005 to 2012, with deaths rising by 5.5 percent. Why the Green Mountain State experienced an increase is not known.

Maine and Texas were among the states with the smallest decreases, falling by 3 percent each. Kansas’ decrease came in at 5.4 percent.

Massachusetts: Lowest Fatality Rate

The more miles you drive, the more likely you will be in an accident. The researchers, led by Professor Michael Sivak, found that Massachusetts had the lowest fatality rate among states, with 6.24 deaths per 1 billion miles driven. Minnesota came in at 6.93 deaths followed by Connecticut at 7.55, Washington at 7.82 and New Jersey at 7.94.

On the other end of the spectrum, West Virginia had the highest number of deaths per 1 billion miles driven at 17.63. South Carolina at 17.60, Montana at 17.25, North Dakota at 16.86 and Arkansas at 16.47 followed. The average for all states, including the District of Columbia, came in at 11.30 deaths per 1 billion miles driven.

Deaths Per Population

Your chances of dying in a car accident do not always correlate to population density. Indeed, the researchers found that sparsely populated North Dakota recorded 24.30 deaths per 100,000 thousand people, followed by Wyoming at 21.34, Montana at 20.40, Mississippi at 19.50 and Arkansas at 18.72. The average rate across the nation was 10.69 deaths per 100,000 people.

On the other end of the spectrum, Massachusetts recorded 5.25 deaths per 100,000 people followed by New York at 5.77, Rhode Island at 6.09, Washington at 6.44 and Connecticut at 6.57. Even the most densely populated state, New Jersey, came in well below the national average with 6.64 deaths per 100,000 people.

The Michigan study found that the District of Columbia had the lowest number of deaths by either measurement with Massachusetts having the best average in both categories among the states. Nevada showed the greatest improvement, while North Dakota’s fatality rates worsened.

Safety Improvements

Although researchers did not identify the reasons why traffic fatalities fell, improvements in vehicle safety may play a significant part in that factor. Today’s cars are better equipped, with multiple airbag and other restraint systems standard. The newest vehicles also come with anti-lock brakes and traction control, what provide improved handling across a variety of road conditions.

See Also5 Used Cars for Under $5,000


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