Though we don’t like to think about it, an accident can happen anytime we’re on the roadway. Each time we get behind the wheel, there’s a risk – hopefully one made smaller by factors like paying attention and driving defensively – that we could become another statistic in fatal crash reports. Across the nation, 33,561 people died in motor vehicle collisions in 2012, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Yet new research by the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute shows that you can’t simply divide that total by 50 to find out how many deaths happened in your state. It turns out that the likelihood of being killed in a car crash varies widely between states. Some states are “lucky.” Others are not. No state is so lucky that the fatality rate drops to near zero.
Researchers learned that states in the South and the Northern Plains regions had the most fatal accidents, but findings about our local regions might surprise you.
Where We Stand
The good news is that New Jersey ranks among the top 10 states with the least fatal car crashes, both in terms of the number of deaths per miles traveled and per population, MSN News reported. In fact, 2013 saw an “all-time low” rate of traffic fatalities in New Jersey, according to The Star-Ledger. But it’s not all good news. Approximately 542 people still lost their lives on NJ roads last year – and that’s too many.
Just across the bridge, our neighbors in Philly aren’t ranking quite so well. Based on fatal crashes by population, Pennsylvania fell squarely into the middle range of traffic fatalities. And when sorting by number of miles traveled, Pennsylvania saw a high death rate. In 2013, about 1,208 people died on Pennsylvania roadways, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. That’s more than double the number of people who lost their lives in New Jersey accidents. These deaths are needless, and the high statistics are unacceptable.
Are You Safer Driving in Philly or Outside the City?
Researchers didn’t analyze why some states had more fatal accidents than others, but they did make note of some possible influences, including:
- Speed limits
- Enforcement of traffic laws and policies, especially those involving alcohol
- Road topography and visibility
- Ratio of rural and urban areas
These factors may be more complicated than they appear. Urban areas have more traffic, so they may seem more dangerous, but they also tend to have lower speed limits and quicker access to emergency medical personnel. Even if a more crashes happen in these areas, they may be less serious due to the speed of the vehicles involved, and close proximity to hospitals can improve survival rates. On the other hand, rural areas with winding roads and high speed limits can be dangerous in a different way. The lack of traffic can lull drivers into a false sense of security. When a collision does occur, the higher speed can make the impact more devastating. If the site of the accident is so rural that it takes a long time for an ambulance to reach the scene and transport the victim to the hospital, the delay in getting urgently needed medical care could mean the difference between surviving and dying.
The risk of being killed in an accident, or even being hurt in an accident, varies between states and within states. The risk can change with the weather, road conditions, time of the day, day of the week, and any number of other factors, many of which are beyond your control. We all need to do whatever we can to minimize not only the risks – and when an accident does happen, we need to stand up for our legal rights, because our lives might never be the same.