As you may already know, U.S. traffic fatalities are rising fast — and getting faster. Early estimates for 2016 showed an 8 percent increase in highway deaths for the same period a year earlier, following a 7.2 percent spike from 2014 to 2015. While federal safety advocates work to determine the combination of factors leading to the heightened death toll, one contributor is already known: speed.
According to a report on speeding fatalities, released this month by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, of the 48,353 drivers involved in 32,166 deadly crashes in 2015, 35,092 people lost their lives. Of those incidents, 27 percent involved at least one speeding driver, and the number of speeding-related deaths jumped to 9,557 from 9,283 in 2014, a 3 percent spike.
In terms of raw numbers, Texas had the most speed-related fatalities, at 1,105, followed by California (955), North Carolina (547) and Pennsylvania (540). The places with the fewest fatalities caused by speeding were the District of Columbia, with just 7; Rhode Island, with 20; Vermont, 21; and Alaska, 22. However (because math), the more telling figure is the number of speeding deaths relative to total traffic fatalities overall.
Here are the 10 states with the greatest percentage of fatalities in which speeding was cited as a contributing factor:
10. Illinois, 37 percent
9. Maine, 38 percent
8. Colorado, 40 percent
7. North Carolina, 40 percent
6. Montana, 41 percent
5. Hawaii, 43 percent
4. Rhode Island, 44 percent
3. New Mexico, 44 percent
2. Pennsylvania, 45 percent
1. New Hampshire, 49 percent
Conversely, here are the 10 safest states for speeding:
10. Minnesota, 20 percent
9. Georgia, 19 percent
8. Ohio, 19 percent
7. Kentucky, 18 percent
6. Arkansas, 17 percent
5. Iowa, 15 percent
4. Nebraska, 15 percent
3. Virginia, 14 percent
2. Mississippi, 14 percent
1. Florida, 11 percent
It's not unexpected that young males are the most dangerous drivers on the road, with nearly a third of fatal crashes involving 15- to 20-year-olds and 20- to 24-year-olds attributed to speed. That's compared with 20 percent for 15- to 20-year-old females and 18 percent for 20- to 24-year-old females.
"The proportion of involvement in speeding-related crashes to all fatal crashes decreased with increasing driver age, and female drivers were speeding less frequently than male drivers across all age groups," NHTSA stated in the report. "Young male drivers were the most likely to be speeding at the time of a fatal crash."
Alcohol's well-documented effect on decision-making unsurprisingly also plays a role. An estimated 40 percent of speeding deaths involve a driver with a blood alcohol content of 0.08 or greater, while 27 percent involve a driver with a BAC of 0.15 or more.
Despite the recent spike in speed-related fatalities, the larger trend is a downward one. From 2006 to 2015, speeding deaths decreased by nearly 30 percent to 9,557 from 13,609. Moreover, speeding deaths comprised 32 percent of traffic fatalities in 2006, gradually dipping to 29 percent in 2013, 28 percent in 2014 and 27 percent in 2015. So while the number of deaths itself increased, the percentage of the whole continues to go decline.
Still, the message on speed is clear: While slow and steady may not exactly win the race, it increases your chances of staying alive.