Politics And Transportation
10:00 am
Wed November 21, 2012

What A State's Politics Says About Its Traffic Death Rate

Research shows that states that voted for Obama in this election have fewer fatal car accidents.
Credit neatlysliced /Flickr

A non-profit investigative news site found an interesting link between whom a state voted for in this election and the rate of traffic deaths there.

According to FairWarning, a state that voted for President Obama in this past election (a blue state) is likely to have fewer deathly traffic accidents compared with  a state that went for Mitt Romney in November (a red state).

The news outlet also reports that there is really no concrete explanation as to why there is this red state-blue state divide when it comes to traffic deaths.

FairWarning reports,

To an extent that mystifies safety experts and other observers, federal statistics show that people in red states are more likely to die in road crashes. The least deadly states – those with the fewest crash deaths per 100,000 people – overwhelmingly are blue.

In the absence of formal definitions for red or blue states, we labeled as red the states that favored Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, and as blue those that supported the reelection of President Obama.

The 10 states with the highest fatality rates all were red, while all but one of the 10 lowest-fatality states were blue. What’s more, the place with the nation’s lowest fatality rate, while not a state, was the very blue District of Columbia.

Florida, as we all know, is just barely a blue state, which is consistent with its placement in the middle of a chart comparing different states and their traffic deaths per 100,000 people.

Florida is #19  on the chart. It didn't earn the highest rate among blue states, but its rate was still a bit higher than the national average. 

The national average for traffic deaths per 100,000 people is 10.63. In Florida, it's 12.98.

Stuart Silverstein researched and wrote up FairWarning's research on this. He tells WLRN that the traffic safety experts  he spoke to had many theories as to why there is this red state-blue state divide, but concluded that no explanation was certain.

"The trick here was that we talked to a number of experts that said we could sit here and theorize why this is, but we can't say for sure," he says. "There could be lots of explanations as to why this is."

Among the explanations, Silverstein says: blue states tend to spend more money on mass transit than red states, people in red states wear seat belts less often than people in blue states and people in rural areas (usually red)  also drive further and faster than in urban areas (usually blue).

In a state like Florida, there are more urban spaces than in many red states, but there is also less mass transit in comparison to other states with similar population density. In Miami, for example, a lack of effective and widespread mass transit and public transportation has been a popular gripe among residents.

"All of these play a role," Silverstein says, "but there is no quicky explanation."