Topic:
TRAFFIC ACCIDENTS; DEATH; DRUNK DRIVING; TRANSPORTATION SAFETY; STATISTICAL INFORMATION; TRAFFIC VIOLATIONS;
Location:
TRAFFIC ACCIDENTS; TRAFFIC VIOLATIONS;

OLR Research Report


December 16, 2005

 

2005-R-0855

CONNECTICUT TRAFFIC FATALITY RATE TRENDS AND SELECTED MOTOR VEHICLE VIOLATION CITATIONS

By: James J. Fazzalaro, Principal Analyst

You asked for a comparison of national and Connecticut motor vehicle fatality rate trends over at least the last 10 years. You specifically wanted to know if Connecticut's fatality rate trend has declined over this period. You also wanted to know how the number of citations for violations of certain motor vehicle violations, such as speeding, reckless, driving, and drunk driving has changed over the last four years.

SUMMARY

Connecticut's motor vehicle fatality rate, based on the comparative measure of fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled (a standard measure of fatality rates) is consistently less than the national fatality rate. Generally speaking, it has also declined more over time than the national rate has declined. For 2003, the most recent year for which complete breakdowns are available through the national fatality database, Connecticut's fatality rate is 0.94 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled (VMT) while the national rate is 1.48 fatalities per 100 million VMT. Thus the Connecticut rate is approximately 63.5% of the national rate. Since 1993, Connecticut's fatality rate has declined by 26% while the national fatality rate has declined by 15.4%.

The number of cases processed through the judicial system for speed-related vehicle violations (traveling unreasonably fast and speeding); reckless driving; driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or both; and following another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent was 234,679 in FY 2002, according to information available in the Judicial Department's database. The total number of cases processed for these violations was 218,652 in FY 2003, 205,120 in FY 2004, and 207,146 in FY 2005. These figures represent the total number of violations that reached the state's judicial system and not the total number of convictions. Once a case is adjudicated in the system, several outcomes are possible, including dismissal of the charge. The case numbers include citations written by both state and local enforcement personnel with authority to enforce motor vehicle laws.

MOTOR VEHICLE FATALITY RATES

The motor vehicle fatality rate for the United States has declined from 1.75 fatalities per 100 million VMT traveled in 1993 to 1.48 fatalities per 100 million VMT in 2003. This amounts to a 15.4% decrease in the fatality rate since 1993. For the same period, the Connecticut motor vehicle fatality rate declined from 1.27 fatalities per 100 million VMT in 1993 to 0.94 fatalities per 100 million VMT in 2003. This amounts to a decrease in the rate of 26%, significantly more than the decline in the national fatality rate. The Connecticut fatality rate in 1993 was somewhat anomalous at 1.27 in that in the two years prior to 1993 and the two years after 1993 the fatality rate ranged between 1.12 and 1.16. However, even if these lower fatality rates before and after 1993 are considered, Connecticut's fatality rate reduction was still greater at 17.5% that the national fatality rate reduction of 15.4%. The further back the comparison is made, the more favorably Connecticut's fatality rate reductions appear compared to the national rate. For example, the Connecticut fatality rate in 2003 was 63.3% lower than its 1982 fatality rate of 2.56 while the national rate was only 46.4% lower than the 1982 national rate of 2.76.

Table 1 shows the motor vehicle fatalities and fatality rates for the United States and Connecticut for the period from 1990 through 2003. The fatality data are derived from reports compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Preliminary fatality estimates are included for 2004, but fatality rates have not been calculated yet.

Table 1: National and Connecticut Motor Vehicle Fatalities and Fatality Rates Per 100 Million Vehicle Miles Traveled

1990-2003

Year

United States

Connecticut

Motor Vehicle Fatalities

Fatality Rate

Motor Vehicle Fatalities

Fatality Rate

1990

44,599

2.08

385

1.46

1991

41,508

1.91

310

1.16

1992

39,250

1.75

296

1.12

1993

40,150

1.75

342

1.27

1994

40,716

1.73

310

1.14

1995

41,817

1.73

317

1.13

1996

42,065

1.69

310

1.10

1997

42,013

1.64

339

1.19

1998

41,501

1.58

329

1.12

1999

41,717

1.55

301

1.01

2000

41,945

1.53

341

1.11

2001

42,196

1.51

318

1.03

2002

43,005

1.51

325

1.04

2003

42,643

1.48

294

0.94

The U.S. and Connecticut motor vehicle fatality rates from 1990 through 2003 are presented graphically below in Figure 1. Connecticut's fatality rate is subject to slightly larger fluctuations than the national rate, largely due to the smaller samples involved. However, even with these fluctuations, the Connecticut fatality rate is generally only about 65% to 72% of the national fatality rate.

Figure 1

CITATIONS FOR SELECTED MAJOR TRAFFIC VIOLATIONS

Table 2 shows the number of cases that have been referred to the Judicial Department for adjudication for violation of certain motor vehicle laws for the last four full fiscal years (FY 2002 through FY 2005). The case statistics include: (1) traveling unreasonably fast, (2) speeding, (3) reckless driving, (4) driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or both, (4) driving with a blood alcohol level of .02% or more if under age 21, (5) following another vehicle too closely, and (6) following another vehicle too closely with intent to harass or intimidate the driver of the preceding vehicle.

The case numbers shown in Table 2 are the total cases that were handled by the judicial system, according to the Judicial Department statistical database. They do not reflect the final disposition of these cases. Thus they should not be interpreted to indicate convictions for these selected offenses, only the total number of cases that went through the system based on citations written by state police, local police, Department of Motor Vehicles inspectors, and any other law enforcement

personnel with authority to enforce motor vehicle laws. Once a case goes through the judicial system, several outcomes are possible, including the charge being nolled.

State laws differentiate in terms of the fines levied for violations in certain situations. For example, violations that occur in designated highway work zones, utility work zones, or school zones result in higher fines than those that occur elsewhere. The laws also differentiate in some cases when violations involve commercial vehicles rather than noncommercial vehicles. For simplicity in this response, we have not separated the statistics to reflect this. The numbers provided are totals for all violations that occurred.

Table 2: Selected Traffic Offenses Referred to Judicial Department for Adjudication—FYs 2002-2005

Sec. 14-218a Traveling Unreasonably Fast

Violators may be charged for either (a) exceeding the posted speed limit or (b) traveling at an unreasonable speed, i.e., one that is not reasonable for highway, traffic, or weather conditions regardless of the posted speed limit.

Number of Cases

(a) Exceeding Posted Speed Limit

(b) Unreasonable Speed (too fast for conditions)

Total—Sum of (a) and (b)

FY 2002

FY 2003

FY 2004

FY 2005

60,246

13,996

74,242

52,952

16,491

69,443

53,624

15,875

69,499

54,071

14,608

68,679

Sec. 14-219 Speeding

Someone may be charged with speeding who drives at:

(a) any speed that endangers a vehicle occupant

(b) more than 55 miles per hour but not over 85 mph

(c) more than 65 mph but not over 85 mph on a road posted with a 65-mph speed limit

Generally, the fine for speeding in a truck is higher than for speeding in a car at a comparable speed.

For cars, illegal speeds up to 70 mph on limited access highways and 60 mph on other types of roads are punished as infractions. Above these speeds, the offense is a violation and a higher penalty structure applies. For trucks, the fine for illegal speeds of 56-70 mph on limited access highways or 56-60 on other types of roads is $100-$150. The fine for trucks going over 70 mph on a limited access highway or over 60 mph on any other type of highway is $150-$200.

Number of Cases

FY 2002

FY 2003

FY 2004

FY 2005

125,096

112,407

100,238

102,814

Sec. 14-222 Reckless Driving

(a) Operating a vehicle at a speed that endangers someone's life other than the vehicle operator; operating a commercial vehicle on a downgrade with the clutch or transmission disengaged; or knowingly operating any motor vehicle with a defective mechanism

(b) Operating any motor vehicle at a speed of more than 85 mph

Number of Cases

(a) Speed that endangers another's life, knowingly operating with a defective mechanism, or operating a commercial vehicle with a disengaged clutch or transmission

(b) Speed over 85 mph

Total—Sum of (a) and (b)

FY 2002

FY 2003

FY 2004

FY 2005

4,430

381

4,811

4,465

517

4,982

4,200

493

4,693

4,234

481

4,715

Sec. 14-227a Operating a Motor Vehicle While Under the Influence of Alcohol, any Drug, or Both, or with an “Elevated Blood Alcohol Content” (.08% or more)

Number of Cases

FY 2002

FY 2003

FY 2004

FY 2005

1st Offense

12,637

12,540

12,746

13,089

2nd Offense

116

703

804

797

3rd or Subsequent Offense

27

181

230

235

Sec. 14-227g Operating a Motor Vehicle if Under Age 21 with a Blood Alcohol Content of .02% or more

 

FY 2002

FY 2003

FY 2004

FY 2005

Number of Cases

18

63

76

95

Sec. 14-240 Following Another Vehicle More Closely Than is Reasonable and Prudent

 

FY 2002

FY 2003

FY 2004

FY 2005

Number of Cases

17,636

18,245

16,746

16,624

Sec. 14-240a Following Another Vehicle Too Closely With Intent to Harass or Intimidate the Driver of the Preceding Vehicle

 

FY 2002

FY 2003

FY 2004

FY 2005

Number of Cases

96

88

88

98

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