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Women's Health

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The Most Dangerous Place to Drive?

The South Has the Highest Rate of Traffic-Related Deaths; Lowest Rate in the Northeast
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Feb. 26, 2009 -- Driving may be more dangerous in the South than any other place in the country, the CDC says.

In 2005, the latest year for which statistics are available, 45,520 deaths in the U.S. were related to motor vehicles, according to the CDC.

The Northeast had the lowest average annual rate of motor vehicle-related fatalities, 9.8 per 100,000 people in the period 1999 to 2005. The rate in the South was almost twice that, at 19.5.

Age, gender, and race also played a factor in motor vehicle-related fatalities, according to the Feb. 27 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

The average annual death rate for young people was 26.8 per 100,000 for people between ages 15 and 24; that’s 74% higher than the overall rate of 15.4.

The average annual death rate for men was more than double that for women, 21.7 vs. 9.4 per 100,000 people. The rate for American Indians/Alaska Natives was 27.2, nearly twice the 15.7 rate for whites and the 15.2 rate for blacks.

The CDC analysis says 46% of the motor vehicle-related deaths from 1999 to 2005 occurred in the South, where the average annual rate was 19.5 per 100,000 people, followed by 14.7 in the Midwest, 14.2 in the West, and 9.8 in the Northeast.

Here are the states with the highest average annual death rates per 100,000:

  1. Mississippi 31.9
  2. Wyoming 27.7
  3. Arkansas 25.6, Montana 25.6
  4. Alabama 25.1
  5. South Carolina 24.6
  6. South Dakota 24.2
  7. New Mexico 23.8
  8. Tennessee 22.8
  9. Louisiana 22.2

Here are the states with the lowest death rates per 100,000:

  1. Massachusetts 7.9 (best or safest)
  2. New York 8.4 (tie with Washington, D.C.)
  3. Rhode Island 8.5
  4. New Jersey 9.0
  5. Connecticut 9.3
  6. Hawaii 10.2
  7. New Hampshire 11.2
  8. California 12
  9. Washington (state) 12.1
  10. Illinois 12.3

The CDC says "vigorous measures" are needed to reduce the death rate to the national objective of 9.2 deaths per 100,000 in 2010.

The researchers say some of the variations are explained by the extent of populations to road environments.

Reasons for the disproportionately high rate in the South are unclear, the researchers say. But distances traveled in rural areas could be a factor, they say.

The CDC says states should evaluate methods to increase the use of seat belts and child-safety restraints and also work on ways to reduce alcohol consumption by drivers.

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