WASHINGTON, Feb 26 (Reuters) - People in Southern states are more likely to die in traffic accidents than those elsewhere in the United States, government researchers reported on Thursday, and men are twice as likely to be killed as women.
Mississippi had the worst traffic death rates, four times as high as the rate in Massachusetts, the safest state, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention team found.
The report in the CDC’s weekly report on death and disease does not give any reasons for the huge disparities in death rates.
“A previous study suggested that drivers in the Southern rural areas may travel more miles, increasing the probability of serious collisions,” the CDC team wrote.
It found that motor vehicle-related death rates were 19.5 per 100,000 population per year in the South between 1999 and 2005. By comparison, the Northeast had 9.8 deaths per 100,000 population, the Midwest had 14.7 and the West 14.2.
“The South accounted for 46 percent of the deaths during the period studied but only 36 percent of the population,” the researchers wrote.
They said states should enforce seat belt laws more consistently. “When properly used, lap/shoulder safety belts reduce by 45 percent the risk for dying in a crash and by 50 percent the risk for moderate to serious injury,” they wrote.
Men were twice as likely to be killed than women, the survey found, with 21.7 men killed per 100,000 versus 9.4 per 100,000 for women over the five years studied. More than 213,000 men were killed compared with 98,000 women.
U.S. safety officials long ago found that traffic death rates in rural areas were often higher than those in more populated regions because accident victims were farther from emergency medical treatment.
Also, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has found that fatality statistics in some northern climates tend to be lower than in southern regions because of the lengthier winter weather that keeps people off roads or prompts them to drive more slowly. (Reporting by Maggie Fox and John Crawley; editing by Mohammad Zargham)