The Most Dangerous Highway in the U.S., Right in Our Backyard.
As Morristown residents gear up for another fall and winter travel season, new data from multiple federal agencies continue to highlight the increasing risks of driving on U.S. highways, including those in New Jersey.
According to recent data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the Fatality Analysis Reporting System, and the U.S. Census Bureau, the fatality rate for motor vehicle accidents remains high. The numbers have evolved but continue to serve as a sobering warning for motorists.
In a report by the NHTSA, an estimated 20,500 people have died in motor vehicle traffic crashes in the first half of 2023, marking an increase of approximately 1.6% as compared to 20,175 deaths in the same period in 2022.
Statistics from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System show that although U.S. drivers drove fewer miles in 2020 due to the pandemic, vehicle fatalities still increased by about 7.2% from 2019 to 2020. The fatality rate for 2020 stood at an alarming 1.37 per 100 million motor vehicle miles traveled, a 26% increase compared to 2019.
Interstate 95: The Danger in Our Backyard
The most dangerous highway, based on the analysis of motor vehicle collisions, fatalities, and miles driven, remains Interstate 95 (I-95). This highway runs north to south along the east coast and cuts right through New Jersey, including the vicinity of Morristown.
For context, I-95 had the highest number of fatalities in 2019, with 284 deaths and 14.88 fatalities per 100 miles traveled. Even as we await complete data for 2021 and 2022, this highway's risk profile hasn't changed dramatically.
It's worth noting that most accidents on I-95 occur in the Northeast, particularly during the winter months when road conditions are notoriously poor.
Life and Death Factors: Speed, Seatbelts, and Substance Use
Speed continues to be a significant risk factor. A 10% change in mean traffic speed has a statistically significant impact on the increase in motor vehicle fatalities.
As for seatbelt usage, ejection rates serve as a surrogate measure. Before the pandemic, unknown seatbelt use stood at 14%. It increased to 24% during the pandemic, suggesting a decrease in seatbelt usage.
Alcohol and drug use also play a role. A study showed that nearly one-third of fatally injured drivers had alcohol in their system, 26% tested positive for cannabinoids, and 13% for opioids.
As of 2023, New Jersey has seen 580 motor vehicle accidents, resulting in 620 deaths. Morris County recorded 21 fatal motor vehicle accidents this year, a worrying increase from previous years. Fatal accidents in New Jersey increased by 4.1% between September 2022 and September 2023.
How to Stay Safe
To protect yourself during the holiday season, follow these guidelines:
- Be alert to dangerous roads and drive defensively.
- Plan your route in advance, taking into consideration traffic patterns and weather conditions.
- Take adequate rest and avoid driving if you're fatigued.
- Always obey traffic laws and speed limits.
By adhering to these simple but essential guidelines, you can reduce your risk of becoming a statistic in this grim trend.