According to a University of Connecticut study, Massachusetts highways are the safest roads in the United States; Connecticut came in second in the study.
The academic study was published in the Connecticut Economy, a scholarly journal of the University of Connecticut, Summer 2011 edition.
The good news nationally is that the rate of fatalities has gone down steadily since 1975; from 3.35 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles driven, to 1.14 deaths per million. That is a reduction of almost two thirds. Boston personal injury lawyers tend to think of the Massachusetts roads as dangerous: we see the bad news every day at work. However, the New England states, along with New York and New Jersey, have fatality rates among the best in the country.
The study, by economics professors Arthur W. Wright and Subhash C. Ray, is a fascinating example of digging deep. They used National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data and reviewed the obvious factors: urban verses rural, safer vehicles, etc. However, the only statistically significant answer was per capita income! According to the United States Bureau of Economic Analysis, a higher state rate of economic wellbeing was positively associated with lower motor vehicle fatalities. Massachusetts and the other states which made progress in increasing per capita incomes over the time period studied had lower traffic fatalities. This was considered a time-variant variable.
Another time-variant was youth. Using FHWA data and determining that drivers under 24 were another variable, the data showed that there was a positive correlation between youth and increased traffic fatalities. Thus, the states with higher number of youth drivers were states with higher fatality rates.
The major time in-variant variables that the study examined were:
1. Snowfall: “greater snowfall is associated with lower fatality rates.” Perhaps this is because those in snowy climates learn how to drive in snow, and because they try not to drive in it; further, public safety officials are prepared in those states.
2. Seatbelt laws; the professors compared primary seat belt laws, where a driver can be pulled over for not wearing a seat belt, with secondary seat belt laws, where a driver can not be stopped for not wearing a seat belt, but can be ticketed if it is discovered for an otherwise legal stop. The results were significant, albeit weakly.
3. The 1999 per se 0.08 blood alcohol law is considered the standard for preventing drunk driving. The study looked at early adoption of the law, where states were more serious about drunk driving.
4. The quality of the states’ graduated drivers licensing (GDL) programs. These programs require additional steps before someone can get a license. They include supervised driving, restricted driving (after dark, with non-family members in the vehicle). The higher the GLD rate, the lower the fatality rate.
The facts showed that high per capita income was associated with lower fatality rates. This could be a result of higher education rates and ability to purchase safer cars.