Oklahoma Traffic Fatalities, Injuries: Declining for Three Decades

Oklahoma Car Crash Trends: Part 3

Each of Oklahoma’s 678 traffic fatalities in 2013 was a tragedy that impacted the lives of family and friends. However, there is good news: Oklahoma’s annual total of car crash deaths has been declining steadily for more than three decades.

As government and nonprofit agencies seek ways to reduce the number of people who die each year on Oklahoma roadways, we must consider the remarkable progress we have made and know the reasons for our success.

In 2013, Oklahoma traffic fatalities declined by 4% from the previous year (708 in 2012 to 678 in 2013). Serious injuries in car crashes was also down an impressive 8%, (36,500 injuries in 2012 to 33,700 injuries in 2013). That progress is the latest improvement in a three decades-long trend toward fewer fatalities and serious injuries in car crashes.

Here are Oklahoma traffic fatality totals for the last 10 years:

year fatalities year fatalities
2004 777 2009 737
2005 800 2010 668
2006 765 2011 696
2007 770 2012 708
2008 751 2013 678

The decline from 800 traffic deaths in year 2005 to 678 in year 2013 is a 15% decline in eight years. That’s great.

However, even a ten-year view doesn’t tell the whole story. I looked at data going back to 1937, more than three-quarters of a century ago. During the 1940s, ’50s, ’60s and ’70s, traffic fatalities steadily climbed in Oklahoma.

year traffic fatalities note
1957 703 Broke 700 traffic deaths for first time
1967 881 Broke 800 traffic deaths for first time
1978 920 Broke 900 traffic deaths for first time
1981 1004 Broke 1000 traffic deaths for first time
1982 1070 Oklahoma’s highest ever annual traffic fatalities on record

However, since 1984, only twice have Oklahoma traffic fatalities been 800 deaths or higher. The 2013 total of 678 fatalities is a 37% decline from the 1982 high.

The number of serious injuries has also been declining at the same steady pace. After hitting a peak of 58,100 injuries in 1997, traffic injuries have been falling ever since, all the way down to 33,721 injuries in 2013. That’s a 42% decline in just 16 years.

These improvements are great; their significance is further magnified by the fact that more drivers and vehicles than ever are using Oklahoma highways and streets. Here’s the difference 50 years makes:

year licensed drivers in Oklahoma registered vehicles in Oklahoma
1963 1.3 million 2.6 million
2013 2.6 million 4 million
increase doubled up 54%

Reasons for Such Huge Improvements

There are many reasons for the huge strides Oklahoma has made in reducing traffic deaths and injuries. Many of the reasons are tied directly or indirectly to the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1966. That federal law established the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The Oklahoma Highway Safety Office, part of the state Department of Public Safety, was established in 1967. The office is federally funded by the NHTSA.

Federal and state legislation and regulations since then have required or encouraged seat belts, air bags, shatter-resistant windshields, safety glass, head rests and many other changes in auto design. In addition to making our vehicles safer, legislation and regulations have also made our roadways safer through better signage, striping, illumination and the addition of barriers and guardrails.

Safer autos and safer roads have played a big part in reducing fatalities and injuries. Other big facts include much greater public awareness and concern about two big causes of roadway tragedies: drunk driving and speeding. A third area in which public attitudes and law enforcement have progressed is in the use of selt belts and child safety seats.

Newly Released Car Crash Statistics

The Oklahoma Highway Safety Office recently released almost 500 pages of statistics about vehicle crashes in Oklahoma in 2013. I gleaned all of the above statistics from the AHSA reports. In the first post of this blog series on “Oklahoma Car Crash Trends,” I provided links to the recently released OHSA publications. At the bottom of that post, I also provided titles and links to all of the posts of this blog series.

More Information about Car Accident Fatalities, Injuries

We have provided a wealth of information on this website about Oklahoma car accidents, traffic fatalities and highway safety. A good place to start is the video, content and links on this page: “Car Accidents.”

If you have been seriously injured or you have lost a loved one in a car accident, we want to help you receive 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.