Dear Sultan of the Asphalt: I diligently read the traffic accidents in the newspaper. It seems there are more accidents caused by a vehicle crossing the centerline. Any way to confirm this? In the past, most fatalities were caused by vehicles leaving the road and encountering a homicidal tree. -- A Macabre Fan
Dear Macabre: Your question gives us a chance to examine the recently released 2013 report of traffic crash statistics, compiled by the highway safety office of the Arkansas State Police. For those who want to read the full report, it's on the website of the state police.
A reading of the report is remarkable for the good news. How can there be good news when 499 people lost their lives in traffic accidents in Arkansas in 2013? Because that was a 10.9 percent decrease from 2012, when 560 people were killed.
In fact, fatalities have been on a downward trend at least since 2004, as a bar chart describes. In 2004, there were 721 traffic fatalities. There was a small spike upward in a couple of those years, but the trend exists and persists.
May we plow through the report and pluck out some interesting data?
A five-year snapshot, 2009-13, totals 2,773 fatalities. So many people ....
Over those five years, the age group 21-25 accounts for the most fatalities, 311. The age group 26-30 accounts for the second-most, 281. The number of fatalities generally levels and lowers as drives get older. Until the 76-plus cohort, that is, which spikes to 192.
The number of injuries has dropped as well, from 64,331 in 2004 to 26,375 in 2013. Our math shows that to be a decline of 59 percent. No reason given but it would be a safe assumption that newer and safer vehicles with more air bags, plus a higher rate of seat-belt use, are contributors to this trend.
Arkansas now requires its drivers and occupants to wear seat belts. Failure to do so is a primary, rather than a secondary offense. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that seat-belt use in Arkansas in 2013 was 76.7 percent, compared with 63.3 percent in 2006. Nationally, the rate in 2013 was 87 percent.
Here is some more good news. The number of traffic accidents reported in Arkansas in 2004 was 74,059. In 2013 that number was 58,449. That's a decrease of 21 percent. Arkansans must be getting better at driving.
Now, Macabre, let's take a shot at answering your questions about crossing the centerline versus leaving the road.
The nearest figure we find in the report on the former is that 68 people were killed in head-on collisions in 2013. Regarding the latter, the nearest we find is single-vehicle crash, in which 305 people were killed.
Sad footnote: Friday's bus accident in North Little Rock, in which six people were killed, bumped up this year's total to 441, according to preliminary figures from the Arkansas State Police.
Metro on 11/07/2015