Highway Deaths in US States, as a Proportion of Population (2002)

When compared with other highly-motorized countries, the USA does badly in terms of highway safety. If this is taken one stage further and individual American states are compared with those same international standards, things start to look even worse. No less than eleven U.S. states have worse road-death rates, per head of population, than the worst country in the international listings.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) operates the International Road Traffic and Accident Database (IRTAD) which lists road-crash casualty statistics from thirty member-countries, including the USA.

The key parameter by which fatality figures are compared, in the IRTAD, is “deaths per 100,000 population” yet this measurement is rarely seen in U.S. statistics. The staff at Drive and Stay Alive have therefore taken publicly available highway-fatality data and applied this approach. The results are shown below, from which it will be seen that several American states have particularly shocking death rates.

RankingStatePopulation (millions)1Fatalities

(2002)2

Rate

(2002)3

  1Massachusetts    6.4    459

    7.17

  2Rhode Island    1.08      84

    7.77

  3New York  19.2  1522

    7.93

  4District of Columbia    0.56      47    8.4
  5New Jersey    8.64    773    8.95
  6Connecticut    3.5    322    9.2
  7Hawaii    1.26    119    9.4
  8New Hampshire    1.29    127    9.84
  9Washington    6.1    659  10.8
10Illinois  12.65  1411  11.15
11California  35.5  40784  11.49
12Michigan  10.08  1277  11.73
13Maryland    5.5    659  11.98
14Oregon    3.56    436  12.25
15Virginia    7.39    914  12.37
16Ohio  11.44  1418  12.4
17Alaska    0.65      87  12.43
18Indiana    6.2    792  12.77
19Minnesota    5.06    657  12.98
20Vermont    0.6      78  13.0
21Pennsylvania  12.37  1614  13.05
22Iowa    2.94    404  13.74
23Utah    2.35    328  13.96
24Wisconsin    5.47    803  14.68
USA Overall (IRTAD)284.8542815  14.86
25North Dakota    0.63      9715.4
26Delaware    0.8    12415.5
27Colorado    4.56    74216.1
28Maine    1.3    21616.62
29Texas  22.1  372516.86
30Nevada    2.24    38117.01
31Georgia    8.7  152317.5
32Nebraska    1.74    30717.64
33Florida  17.0  313218.4
34North Carolina    8.4  157518.75
35Kansas    2.7    51218.96
36Idaho    1.37    26419.27
37Louisiana    4.5    87519.44
38Arizona    5.6  111719.9
39Tennessee    5.8  117520.26
40Oklahoma    3.5    73420.97
Portugal (the IRTAD country with the worst death rate)    9.4921.0
41Missouri    5.7  120821.19
42Kentucky    4.1    91522.32
43Alabama    4.6  103322.46
44South Dakota    0.76    18023.68
45Arkansas    2.7    64023.7
46New Mexico    1.88    44923.88
47West Virginia    1.8    43924.39
48South Carolina    4.1  105325.68
49Montana    0.92    27029.35
50Mississippi    2.88    88530.73
51Wyoming    0.5    17635.2
USA  Totals284.854281514.86

Copyright ©, Drive and Stay Alive, Inc., 2003

KEY

States with above-US-average results
States with below-US-average results
States with results below that of the worst IRTAD country

SOURCES:

  1. Source: US Census Bureau, figures for July 2003 (chronologically accurate figures would presumably be marginally lower, in which case the death rate would appear even worse)

  2. Source: Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), NHTSA

  3. The number of fatalities, divided by [population divided by 100,000]

  4. As can be seen, the highest number of deaths in a state does not indicate the relative level of any danger. California’s rate is comparatively good.

  5. Source: IRTAD — Selected Reference Values for the Year 2001

  6. Source: IRTAD, 2001

Unfortunately, the USA itself fares very badly in what are currently the latest available (i.e. 2001) IRTAD listings. Of the countries listed, America is — at best — in 23rd place (see below).

The question mark hanging over America’s true position comes from our own concern, at Drive And Stay Alive, about the reliability of data from Turkey — ostensibly in top place in 2001 with a death rate of just 5.6  — but given the fact that much of their other data is absent, together with the alleged and — to us — unbelievable rate of improvement in Turkey’s death-rate figures over the last few years, and given our own knowledge of driving conditions in Turkey, we would choose to set aside the figures in question. Hence, if one includes the Turkish figures the USA is in 24th place out of thirty countries, and if one excludes Turkey the USA is in 23rd place.