This week the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) released their annual highway crash statistics for 2012. According to the report, the number of motor vehicle accidents on Pennsylvania roadways has decreased overall, but crash fatalities have seen an increase from 1286 traffic fatalities in 2011 to 1310 in 2012.
These statistics also show an alarming local trend. According to the report, Bedford County has a fatality-to-crash ratio that is almost double that of its neighboring counties. In Bedford County last year there were 17 deaths in 670 crashes, which indicate that if you are involved in an accident in Bedford County, the chance that it will result in a fatality is approximately 2.5%, while if you are involved in an accident in Blair or Cambria Counties your fatality risk drops to only 1.3%. Bedford County has also seen a gradual increase in their fatality-to-crash ratio, while other local counties have seen declines.
The reasons for these disparities remain unclear; however, police, emergency officials, and PennDOT representatives have offered some possible explanations and suggestions on how to reverse this trend.
Some possible reasons for Bedford County's higher motor vehicle accident fatality rates include heavily trafficked highways, mountainous topography, inclement weather conditions, or rural driving habits. While all of these contribute to the problem, officials stress that the one variable that can easily be changed to reduce fatal car accidents in Bedford County is increased seat belt use.
According to statistics, rural drivers tend to ignore seat belt laws and decreased seat belt use directly correlates with increased crash fatalities. Many rural drivers think that country roads are less dangerous, so they don't need to wear a seat belt or that they are only driving a short distance, so there is no need to buckle up. A less visible police presence in rural areas can also contribute to a more relaxed attitude about obeying seat belt laws.
Source: Bedford's high fatal rate unclear, Altoona Mirror, 03 April 2013.