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Why is it more dangerous to drive in Montana than in Rhode Island?

Today's motor vehicles are better designed and equipped with more safety features than ever. Yet, despite these major safety improvements, each year millions of people across the U.S. continue to be negatively impacted by motor vehicle accidents.

A recent report from 24/7 Wall Street provides insight into some of the key factors that are contributing to traffic accidents. Using traffic fatality information from the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety, the report analyzed fatal accident data from all 50 states and ranked each state accordingly. When reviewing the results and how states ranked, researchers noted several trends that provide more insight into why many accidents occur.

Noteworthy findings from the research include disparities between fatality rates in states with large rural vs. urban areas. In fact, based on traffic fatality statistics, four out of the top five most dangerous states to drive in are predominantly rural. Among these states is Montana which, with 22.6 fatalities for every 1000,000 residents, was deemed the most dangerous driving state. Conversely, with only 6.2 fatalities per 100,000 residents, Rhode Island ranked as the 47th most-dangerous state in which to drive.

Researchers note that rural highways tend to have higher speed limits and are also often comprised of two-lane roads which increases the likelihood of cars crossing the center line and causing head-on collisions whereas speed limits in urban settings are lower and traffic lanes more plentiful.

Another noteworthy finding centers on seat belt usage. There's no doubt that seat belts save lives and that, if involved in a traffic accident, drivers and passengers who fail to buckle-up are at an increased risk of being ejected from a vehicle or being tossed violently about within a vehicle. Nationally, 87 percent of the population reports to regularly buckling up upon getting into a vehicle. Among residents in those states that reported the least amount of traffic fatalities, seat belt usage was even higher than the national average.

Source: 24/7 Wall Street, "Most Dangerous States to Drive," Sam Stebbins, Dec. 1, 2015

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