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Car-Crash Death Rates Depend on Where You Live in U.S.

Northeast is best, south the worst; men and young adults also more frequent victims

THURSDAY, Feb. 26 (HealthDay News) -- The federal government's push to reduce motor vehicle deaths appears to be having mixed success, with drivers in Massachusetts and the northeast getting the message loud and clear.

But drivers in southern states -- particularly Mississippi -- are still dying in higher-than-acceptable numbers, according to a report released Thursday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The federal government's Healthy People 2010 initiative calls for reducing the rate of motor vehicle deaths to 9.2 per 100,000 people, down from a rate of 15.6 in 1998.

To see how well the program is working, CDC researchers analyzed data from the National Vital Statistics System for the years 1999 through 2005. They found that, while annual age-adjusted motor vehicle-related death rates overall were nearly unchanged, there were significant differences among states, U.S. Census regions, men and women, the races, and age groups.

Among states, the average annual death rate ranged from 7.9 per 100,000 people in Massachusetts to 31.9 in Mississippi. Among regions, the rate ranged from 9.8 per 100,000 people in the Northeast, to 19.5 in the South. The rate for men (21.7 per 100,000 population) was more than double the rate for women (9.4); the rate for American Indians/Alaska Natives (27.2) was nearly twice the rate for whites (15.7) and blacks (15.2); and the rate for people 15 to 24 years (26.8) was 74 percent higher than the average annual overall rate of 15.4 per 100,000 people.

In four northeastern states and the District of Columbia, the average annual death rate was below the Healthy People target of 9.2 per 100,000 population: Massachusetts (7.9), New York (8.4), Rhode Island (8.5), Washington, D.C. (8.4), and New Jersey (9.0).

The findings were published in the Feb. 27 issue of the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

According to the CDC, more research is needed to determine the causes of geographic and demographic variations, and that might result in more effective programs aimed at the states, regions, and populations at greatest risk.

The CDC said the new study didn't explore why death rates vary so much by region. But previous research suggested that drivers in southern rural areas may travel more miles, increasing the chances of serious collisions.

Stepped-up prevention efforts -- including lower blood alcohol laws, vehicle safety improvements, better roads, improved emergency response, seat belt laws, and alcohol checkpoints -- may help to save more lives, the researchers said.

More information

To learn more about motor vehicle safety, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

SOURCE: Feb. 27, 2009, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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