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Most Oklahoma Traffic Deaths Involve No Seat Belts, No Helmets

Oklahoma Car Crash Trends: Part 2

If all Oklahoma drivers and passengers used seat belts and safety restraints and all motorcyclists used helmets, it is likely that several hundred deaths in car crashes and motorcycle accidents would be prevented in Oklahoma each year.

A total of 678 people lost their lives in traffic accidents on Oklahoma highways, streets and roads in 2013. Approximately 333 of them were drivers or passengers of cars or trucks who were not wearing safety restraints. Another 61 were motorcyclists not wearing helmets.

That’s 394 traffic deaths, far more than half (58%) of our state’s annual fatality total.

Newly Released Car Crash Statistics

The Oklahoma Highway Safety Office recently issued almost 500 pages of statistics about car crashes in Oklahoma in 2013. I have read the OHSA reports; in this blog series, I am passing along what the data reveals about such topics as traffic fatalities, alcohol-related crashes, speeding crashes, pedestrian fatalities and injuries, motorcycle fatalities and injuries, and distracted driving due to cell phones.

In the first post of this blog series, I provided links to the recently released OHSA publications, and at the bottom of that post, titles and links to all of the posts in this series on “Oklahoma Car Crash Trends.”

Single Most Important Statistic

Perhaps the single most important statistic about Oklahoma traffic deaths in the new OHSA data is this one: more than half of our state’s roadway fatalities last year were not using seat belts (“were unrestrained”).

Oklahoma had 678 traffic fatalities during 2013. Of those deaths, 74 were pedestrians and bicyclists, leaving 604 who were vehicle drivers or passengers.

Unfortunately, information about whether those drivers/passengers were using safety restraints is available in only 439 deaths. Of the 439 we know about, 242 of the fatality victims were unrestrained. That’s 55% of the total.

If we apply the same 55% ratio to the 165 driver/passenger fatalities in which we don’t know if the victims were restrainted, that’s another 91 deaths of people not using seat belts.

In a similar category, of Oklahoma’s 92 motorcycle fatalities last year, 61 of them were not wearing a helmet.

Are you putting together all of these numbers?

  • 242 fatalities in which we know the victims wasn’t wearing a seat belt
  • 91 fatalities in which the victim probably was not wearing a seat belt
  • 61 motorcyclists not wearing helmets

That’s 394 total deaths of people who were unrestrained or unhelmeted, far more than half of total fatalities.

Consider how many lives would be saved with better seat belt and helmet compliance. Someone might respond that it should be a personal decision whether or not to use seat belts or wear a helmet. But the aftermath of those 394 deaths ripple through the lives of thousands of family members, co-workers and neighbors.

Pedestrians and Bicyclists

Most of the total 678 fatalities were drivers, but those traffic tragedies also claimed the lives of 154 passengers, 61 pedestrians and 13 bicyclists.

That’s right. Eleven percent of the people who died in Oklahoma car crashes last year were not even in a car; they were walking or riding a bicycle. Drunk driving and texting while driving are hot button topics that get a lot of attention, as they should. But what is Oklahoma doing to increase pedestrian safety? I will come back to that topic in a later post of this blog series.

Fatalities Down from 2012

The good news about Oklahoma traffic fatalities is that we saw a 4% decline from the 708 fatalities of 2012. However, it is impossible to put a positive spin on 678 lives lost on Oklahoma roads. Slightly less than 2 fatalities a day occur somewhere in the Sooner State.

Here are some other characteristics of those fatalities, according to the OHSA data. (Notice that these line items are not mutually exclusive; a single fatality might fall into more than one category):

* Alcohol-related fatalities: 189, which is 28% of the 678 total fatalities.

* Unsafe speed: 155, which is 23% of all fatalities. As I pointed out earlier this year, speeding is as serious and as deadly as drunk driving, although the latter gets much more attention, while many people look the other way on speeding. (See “Speeding: Overlooked Cause of Death on Oklahoma Roads”).

* Rollover crashes: 225 (33%). One third of Oklahoma traffic fatalities involve rollovers. Other factors, including alcohol and speeding, are often at work in a rollover crash. Nevertheless, many of those drivers and passengers might have survived their accidents if their vehicles hadn’t rolled over. I will focus on rollovers in a later post of this series.

* Large truck crashes: 98 (14%). Large trucks are also involved in a significant portion of Oklahoma fatalities. That’s another topic we will focus on later.

* Motorcyclists: 92 (14%)

* Failed to yield: 77 (11%).

More Information about Car Accident Fatalities, Injuries

There is a lot of helpful information on this website about Oklahoma car accidents, traffic fatalities and highway safety. Start with the video, content and links on this page: “Car Accidents.”

If you or a loved one have been seriously injured or you have lost a loved one in a car accident, we are here to help you obtain the compensation you need as you try to put your life back together. Get in touch with us for a free consultation. Call Hasbrook & Hasbrook at 866-416-4737, or send an email (cth@hasbrooklaw.com) or use our online contact form: Contact Us.