Massachusetts Motor Vehicle Safety News: Summer 2012

The bad news is that driving in motor vehicles is dangerous. In fact, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control in a study released July 20, motor vehicle collisions are the number one cause of deaths for people aged five to 34. And, in 2009, 34,485 deaths associated with motor vehicle collisions were reported. The good news is that Massachusetts motor vehicle accidents resulted in the lowest average yearly rate in the United States in the recent Centers for Disease Control study, in the years 2007 to 2009.

The rate was 5.5 fatalities per 100,000 people; at the other end of the spectrum was Mississippi, with a rate five times higher. The consequences are, of course, tragic for the families but also economic. The estimates for economic loss are $170 billion in medical bills and lost economic productivity.
What were the results for Boston motor vehicle fatalities? According to the CDC study the overall rate for the United States was 11.1 fatalities per 100,000 people, with the overall rate for metropolitan centers at 8.2 fatalities per 100,000 people. Metropolitan Boston motor vehicle fatalities were at 5.0 per 100,000.
Teenagers and young adults pose a special problem. The national metropolitan rate of fatalities for people aged 15 to 24 is 13, with Boston’s metropolitan area at 10 deaths per 100,000. The figures are for 2009. But the sadist news is that in this age group, motor vehicle collisions are the leading cause of death. The CDC study showed that graduated driver licensing programs (GLD) are very effective. That is, programs where new drivers must go through stages such as permit, provisional license, restricted license and only after time receive a full, unrestricted, license. The data shows that GDL programs, especially ones that restrict new drivers from having non-family passengers like Massachusetts, for a period of time, are very effective.
What can we do here in Massachusetts?
According to the Trust for America’s Health, the number one solution is seat belt use. Is there a correlation between seat belt use and fatalities? The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration reported that of the ten states with the highest average auto fatality rate were the states with the lowest reported seat belt use.
With respect to children, how can we protect them? Car seats, booster seats, seat belts. The CDC study notes that child safety seats reduce risk of fatality by 71% for babies and by 54% for children aged one to four. It’s not complicated. And, in Massachusetts, it’s the law! Children on motorcycles? Helmets are required by law. Visiting New Hampshire, where our sister state’s “live free or die” motto allows helmetless motorcycle riding, keep helmets on children.
The data and reports may show Massachusetts as safer and Boston as having a better statistical result for 2009, but we have much work to do here in Massachusetts. Educating children to buckle up is the start. Teaching teenagers to buckle up is critical. Common sense is essential when driving. And when being a passenger. This article does not address alcohol use and its association with motor vehicle collisions, but it’s worth mentioning here because the problem is prevalent.
If you know someone who is injured, refer them to a Boston personal injury attorney with over 25 years experience: Attorney Neil Burns at 617-227-7423.