A recent article in USA Today featured the states in the US where you are most likely to be killed in a motor vehicle accident. Montana topped the list, followed by North Dakota and Mississippi. Other states making the top ten most dangerous are West Virginia, Oklahoma, Alabama, Arkansas, South Carolina and South Dakota. Rounding out the list was Tennessee. Texas had the most motor vehicle fatalities but did not make the top ten due to the fact that it is more populous thus the rate of deaths per 100,000 residents was lower. The study was based on data provided by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety and the Federal Highway Administration.
In analyzing the data on motor vehicle fatalities, rural highways were one category that was highlighted. It seems as if states with the most rural highways also had the highest rates of deaths per 100,000 of their residents. In Montana, the leader in motor vehicle deaths per 100,000 residents, more than 69% of its vehicle miles driven were on rural highways and over 98% of the traffic deaths happened in rural areas. However, clouding up the statistic is the fact that of the 101 motor vehicle deaths that occurred on rural highways, 90% had alcohol in their blood. In addition, only 74% of Montana drivers wear a seatbelt as opposed to the national average of 87%. So questions remain. Do rural highways cause fatal traffic accidents? Or is the fact that more drivers in some states don’t wear their seatbelt?
Perhaps a better question to ask is what state leads the nation in fatalities where the driver had alcohol in his/her blood. The following are the top ten states in terms of highway fatalities followed by the percentage of those fatalities where alcohol was being used by the driver.
- Montana, 91%
- North Dakota – 87%
- West Virginia – 95%
- Oklahoma – 91%
- Alabama – 74%
- National Average – 72%
Most of the states with the greatest rate of motor vehicle fatalities also had above the national average rates of alcohol-related motor vehicle fatalities. Perhaps people from Montana, North Dakota, and Mississippi drink more, or perhaps their state police do less to enforce the DUI laws on the books in their state. Regardless, it appears more than obvious that alcohol consumption and not wide open highways or the lack of seat belt usage is the major contributor to each state’s higher motor vehicle fatality rates.