Transportation >> Traffic Safety >> Motor Vehicle Death Trend

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From 2001 to 2010, the rate of deaths from motor vehicle injuries among King County residents declined. 

Motor vehicle collisions often lead to property damage and personal injury, and sometimes cause death. Victims sometimes include bicyclists and pedestrians. Injuries and deaths from collisions have declined in recent years, in part due to education, mandated use of seat belts, tough impaired-driving laws, and safety engineering. 

Unintentional injuries are the leading cause of death for people ages 1-44; traffic injuries represent 1 out of every 5 of those deaths. Averaging data from 2008 through 2010, the age-adjusted rate at which King County residents died from injuries suffered in motor vehicle crashes was 5.3 per 100,000 King County residents (313 total deaths, or 104 deaths per year).

For residents of King County (regardless of location of vehicle crash) …

  • From 2001 to 2010, the rate of King County resident deaths due to motor vehicle injuries declined.  Averaging data for 2008-2010, 104 resident deaths per year were attributed to traffic collisions.
  • For every King County resident who died from motor vehicle injuries, about 9 King County residents were hospitalized for serious injuries (2008-2010).
  • Pedestrian and cyclist fatalities are classified separately, depending on whether a motor vehicle was involved.  Averaging data on deaths of King County residents from 2006 through 2010 …  
    • … 21 pedestrians and 2 bicyclists died annually in incidents that involved a motor vehicle. 
    • … 26 pedestrians and 3 bicyclists died annually when all incidents were counted, regardless of motor vehicle involvement.

For vehicle crashes occurring in King County from 2008-2010 (regardless of victims’ residence) …

  • Comparing 2008-2010 data to 2005-2007 data, total collision-related deaths that occurred in King County declined by 27%. This includes …      
    • … 51.6% decrease in deaths among unrestrained vehicle occupants.
    • … 31.4% decrease in deaths involving speeding.
    • … 19% decrease in deaths involving impaired drivers.
  • 49% of traffic deaths involved an impaired driver.  As traffic deaths declined, the proportion involving an impaired driver has gradually but steadily increased (41% in 1999-2001; 43% in 2002-2004; 45% in 2005-2007).
  • 38% of fatal traffic crashes involved a driver age 16-25.
  • On average, 19 pedestrians and 3 bicyclists died per year in traffic crashes.
    • Among pedestrian motor-vehicle-related fatalities, 32% of pedestrians had blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 or greater.
    • Among bicyclist motor-vehicle-related fatalities, 11% of bicyclists had BAC of .08 or greater.
Another way to measure traffic deaths is to account for miles traveled.  Averaging data from 2006 through 2010, King County’s traffic fatality rate was 0.59 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled (VMT).  As with serious injuries, deaths per 100 million VMT declined over this period – from 0.81 in 2006 to 0.52 in 2010.
  • The 2010 rate in Washington State was 0.80 deaths per 100 million VMT.   
  • The national rate in 2010 was 1.10 deaths per 100 million VMT.   

Nationally, more than half of vehicle occupants who were fatally injured in 2010 were unrestrained (not wearing a seatbelt or not in appropriate car seats, booster seats, or vests).  In King County, seatbelt use in 2011 was estimated at 98.1%.