Some Facts About Traffic Fatalities In The U.S., Part 2

Motor vehicle accidents took 35,092 lives in the United States including 1,200 in Pennsylvania in 2015 according to the U.S. Department of Transportation (“DOT”), which posted this and other related data based on 2015 driving statistics in late fall of 2016. This is the second part of an article that summarizes the DOT study in two parts. Part one covered fatal crash totals, deaths by road user, and crash types. Part two discusses alcohol use, restraint or seat belt use, and rural versus urban crashes.

Some Facts About Traffic Fatalities In The U.S., Part 2Alcohol Use

BAC was reported for 70 percent of fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers in the United States in 2015. Rhode Island reported the highest BAC rate of 95 percent of fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers while Mississippi reported the lowest rate, 47 percent. Alaska had the highest estimated percentage of fatally injured drivers with BACs of 0.08 percent or higher (48 percent), and Utah had the lowest (17 percent).

Thirty-nine states, the District of Columbia, and Pennsylvania had BAC reporting rates of at least 70 percent. Pennsylvania’s BAC rate of 71% was just above the national average of 70%. Pennsylvania ranked 37th in the proportion of drivers killed with known BAC results and was just below the national average of estimated drivers killed with BACs ≥ 0.08%.

State Total drivers killed Drivers killed with known BAC results Estimated drivers killed with BACs ≥ 0.08
Number Number % Number %
Pennsylvania 613 434 71 178 29
U.S. Totals 16,484 11,493 70 4,946 30


Restraint Use

The study collected data from daytime observational surveys conducted by the fifty states and the District of Columbia. Restrained fatally injured occupants include occupants in child safety seats and occupants restrained by safety belts. Typically, the rates of restraint use among fatally injured motor vehicle occupants will be lower than observed restraint use because those individuals not wearing seat belts are more likely to be fatally injured in a crash than the restrained occupants of a motor vehicle, pickup, or SUV.

The rate of observed safety belt use among front seat passenger vehicle occupants in 2015 ranged from New Hampshire’s 70 percent to Georgia’s 97 percent. Pennsylvania’s rate of 83 percent of observed safety belt use was below the national average of 89%.

California, Maryland, and the District of Columbia had a restraint use among fatally injured occupants of at least 60 percent among fatally injured motor vehicle occupants. While 47% of fatally injured occupants were using seat belts at the time of their accident nationally, only 35% of Pennsylvanians were restrained. Massachusetts, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming had restraint use rates worse than Pennsylvania with rates below 30 percent.

Nationally 44% of fatally injured occupants were not using seat belts when their accident occurred, 51% of fatally injured Pennsylvanians were unrestrained. 74% of the fatal occupants of motor vehicles in Wyoming were unrestrained; 67% in Montana. In contrast, only 17% of fatal occupants in D.C. were unrestrained and just 26% in Oregon.

State and percent of observed safety belt use Unrestrained fatally injured occupants Restrained fatally injured occupants Unknown restraint status of fatally injured occupants Total fatally injured passenger vehicle occupants
Number % Number % Number % Number
Pennsylvania 83 405 51 274 35 113 14 792
U.S. Totals 89 9,925 44 10,650 47 1,968 9 22,543


Rural vs. Urban

While the number of fatalities in urban areas was 44% of the total of motor vehicle deaths in 2015, 49% of these fatalities occurred in rural areas. Of course, less urbanized states will show a higher percentage of fatalities in rural areas. This was demonstrated by a 93 percent rate in North Dakota, 89 percent in Montana, and 85 percent in South Dakota. Predominantly urban states such as Massachusetts (6 percent), Maryland (8 percent), New Jersey (11 percent), and the District of Columbia (0 percent) conversely had significantly lower rates. 51 percent of Pennsylvania traffic fatalities occurred in rural areas and as would be expected, a higher than national average of 48%, occurred in Pennsylvania urban areas.

Number and percent of motor vehicle crash deaths by land use and state, 2015
State Urban Rural Unknown Total
Number % Number % Number % Number
Pennsylvania 581 48 616 51 3 <1 1,200
U.S. Totals 15,362 44 17,114 49 2,616 7 35,092


It is wise to contact an attorney experienced in litigating personal injury lawsuits. The attorneys, past and present, of Powell Law have represented victims of all types of motor vehicle accidents. If you or a loved one has suffered any type of injury resulting from an automobile, motorcycle, or truck accident, contact Powell Law at call (570) 961-0777. The consultation is FREE and you don’t pay anything unless we win.

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