West Virginia Car Accident Statistics

West Virginia Car Crash Fatalities by the Numbers: How Many, Which Kinds, and Why They Happen

West Virginia is home to one of the highest rates of traffic fatalities — and traffic accidents in general — in the United States.

That, coupled with the high rate of drug abuse in our state, has also made West Virginia the national leader in accidental deaths.

As West Virginia auto accident attorneys, we are acutely aware of the state’s car crash epidemic. Too many of our community members are suffering from severe injuries, or have lost their lives, because of accidents that should never have happened.

The state’s reputation for dangerous drivers is nothing new. Unfortunately, despite some marginal improvement in the overall annual totals, West Virginia continues to score some of the worst numbers in the country year after year.

Indeed, accidents happen in our state every single day. Many of these result in severe injury and/or substantial property damage. Some of them are even fatal.

So just how bad is the driving situation in the Mountain State? And what can you do to protect yourself?

Below, we take a deep dive into the official traffic accident data for West Virginia. It is our hope that by understanding how and why accidents usually happen, you and your family can guard yourselves against them.

As drivers ourselves, we understand how easy it is to fall into a false sense of security. More often than not, you drive to work (or to school or the store) and return home safely, without incident. Soon enough, you might start to think the risk of collision isn’t all that severe.

But as these numbers will show, people just like you and me — West Virginians who hit the road without any reason to suspect they’ll be injured — are unexpectedly sideswiped in a flash. Tragically, far too many of these people end up losing their lives.

Negligent driving is the single greatest threat on West Virginia highways. With a renewed commitment to safe driving — and by holding careless drivers accountable through the accident claims and litigation process — we can all work toward making our state a safer place.

A Note About Car Accident Statistics in West Virginia

In partnership with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the State of West Virginia recently compiled a data-rich report assessing traffic accidents within the state during the four-year period from 2006 to 2010.

Unless otherwise noted, all the data we reference in the sections below will be drawn directly from this report, which is one of the most comprehensive sources available to West Virginians who want to better understand the current reality of auto safety in the Mountain State.

The full report, which totals more than 100 pages, is available for free online by clicking here.

Traffic Fatality Statistics in West Virginia

We begin by looking at the most serious accidents included in the report — those that resulted in someone’s death.

During the five-year period studied, West Virginia saw 20.56 deaths for every 100,000 residents. By comparison, the national rate is only 12.38 per 100,000.

Calculated by vehicle miles traveled (VMT), our state saw 1.89 deaths for every 100 million miles traveled. Compare that to the national rate of 1.27.

The following chart shows the fatality rate by year and tracks the percentage of change over the time period studied.

2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2006-2010 % Change
Total Fatalities 410 432 378 357 315 -20.10%
VMT*
VMT Rate**
20,885
1.96
20,564
2.10
20,774
1.82
18,838
1.90
19,203
1.64
-5.24%
-15.68%
Population
Pop. Rate***
1,827,912
22.43
1,834,052
23.55
1,840,310
20.54
1,847,775
19.32
1,853,973
16.99
0.90%
-20.81%

* Vehicle Miles of Travel (millions)
** Rate per 100 million vehicle miles
*** Rate per 100,000 population

As you can see, the total number of traffic fatalities declined significantly over the five-year period, even as the state’s population grew. Unfortunately, progress since then has not been so steady, and this notable improvement still has not been enough to make West Virginia one of the safer states in the country.

In the sections to follow, we look at more detailed statistics for several types of accident in our state.

The Role of Speeding in West Virginia Car Accidents

The following chart looks at traffic fatalities caused by drivers who were speeding. Excessive speed remains one of the leading causes of auto accidents nationwide.

2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2006-2010 % Change
Fatalities 73 76 97 121 133 44.96%
VMT Rate*
Pop. Rate**
0.35
3.99
0.37
4.14
0.47
5.27
0.64
6.55
0.69
7.17
52.98%
43.67%
% of Total
$ of Region
17.80%
5.43%
17.59%
5.28%
25.66%
8.02%
33.89%
10.26%
42.22%
10.64%
81.43%
49.95%

* Rate per 100 million miles of travel
** Rate per 100,000 population

The increase from 73 speeding-related deaths in 2006 to 133 in 2010 is nothing short of dramatic — a nearly 50% increase in just five years. Nationally, meanwhile, speeding-related deaths decreased during the same period — by more than 15%. The Atlantic region as a whole (consisting of Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia) decreased too, by just over 3%.

The 10 counties in West Virginia with the highest percentages of speeding-related fatalities are as follows:

  1. Kanawha County (9.6%)
  2. Raleigh County (4.8%)
  3. Mercer County (4.4%)
  4. Cabell County (4.2%)
  5. Harrison County (4.2%)
  6. Berkeley County (3.6%)
  7. Jefferson County (3.6%)
  8. Jackson County (3.4%)
  9. Preston County (3.0%)
  10. Monongalia, aka Mon County (2.8%)

Drunk Driving Statistics for West Virginia

You don’t need to see stats about drunk driving to know it’s dangerous.

Despite decades of heartbreaking testimony, unforgettable crash footage, and hard proof, people continue to tempt fate by driving while intoxicated. The chart below, which tracks alcohol-related fatalities in West Virginia, tells the story of hundreds of lives lost as a result.

2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2006-2010 % Change
Fatalities 105 138 126 112 88 -26.82%
VMT Rate*
Pop. Rate**
0.50
5.74
0.67
7.52
0.61
6.85
0.59
6.06
0.46
4.75
-22.77%
-27.47%
% of Total
% of Region
25.61%
8.18%
31.94%
9.91%
33.33%
10.43%
31.37%
9.95%
27.94%
8.37%
-8.41%
-12.89%

* Rate per 100 million miles of travel
** Rate per 100,000 population

32% of all West Virginia traffic fatalities during the studied period involved a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) reading of 0.08 or above.

The 10 counties in West Virginia with the highest total number of alcohol-related fatalities are as follows:

  1. Kanawha County (51)
  2. Berkeley County (31)
  3. Monongalia County (30)
  4. Mercer County (25)
  5. Raleigh County (25)
  6. Cabell County (22)
  7. Wood County (21)
  8. Mason County (19)
  9. Wayne County (19)
  10. Boone County (17)

But the list of counties looks different when ranked by highest percentage of alcohol-related deaths, relative to the overall total of traffic fatalities in the same county:

  1. Gilmer County (56.3%)
  2. Marshall County (46.7%)
  3. Clay County (46.2%)
  4. Mineral County (45.5%)
  5. Tucker County (45.5%)
  6. Wood County (43.8%)
  7. Upshur County (43.5%)
  8. Randolph County (40.0%)
  9. Mason County (39.6%)
  10. Monongalia County (38.0%)

Distracted Driving Statistics

At first glance, the distracted driving stats in the official report from NHTSA / State of West Virginia appear to be better than expected.

  • Distracted driving accounted for only 4.6% of the fatal crashes in West Virginia (compared to 15.6% regionally and 11.1% nationally).
  • Among all distracted driving crashes in West Virginia, cell phone use tied with eating / drinking / smoking as the most common form of distraction (23.1% each).

Those numbers, while certainly significant, are hardly suggestive of the full-blown epidemic that “intextication” is often said to be.

Remember, however, that the study was limited to the time period between 2006 and 2010. While cell phone use was certainly prevalent throughout this period, smartphones did not begin to predominate until the latter years of the study.

Text message usage has risen dramatically across the country in the years since 2010. It is likely that the next such study will show substantially worse numbers for West Virginia.

Seat Belt Statistics for West Virginia: Fatality Rates Among Unrestrained Drivers

West Virginia Seat Belt Statistics In Car Accidents

One of a driver’s best protections against negligent drivers —speeders, texters, the intoxicated — is the use of a seatbelt.

While a safety restraint does not provide an absolute guarantee against injury, the evidence is clear: wearing a seatbelt significantly diminishes the likelihood of death in a traffic accident.

Unfortunately, the unrestrained fatality rate in West Virginia is only getting worse.

2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2006-2010 % Change
Fatalities 162 158 156 152 131 -16.56%
VMT Rate*
Pop. Rate**
0.78
8.92
0.77
8.68
0.75
8.53
0.81
8.29
0.68
7.12
-11.94%
-16.69%
% of Total
% of Region
39.51%
8.74%
36.57%
9.12%
41.27%
9.98%
42.58%
10.74%
41.59%
10.01%
4.43%
4.60%
Observed Belt Use 88.5% 89.6% 89.5% 87.0% 82.1% -7.39%

* Rate per 100 million miles of travel
** Rate per 100,000 population

First, the good news: the number of deaths caused by failure to wear seatbelt decreased in West Virginia by nearly 17%.

Now, the bad news: those gains were much less than the regional improvement (20.2%) and the national gains (22.7%), meaning our state’s numbers might merely be reflective of national trends — and on the low end.

Even worse: overall seatbelt use in West Virginia declined by more than 7% during the measured period. Those numbers are at least on track with the regional and national rates.

Finally, a sobering a statistic: among all vehicle occupants who were killed in a West Virginia car crash during 2010, only 30.1% were wearing a seatbelt.

Why Are Car Accidents More Common in West Virginia?

According to West Virginia University’s Mountaineer News Service, reasons for West Virginia’s unusually high rate of car accidents include:

  • The state’s mountainous terrain
  • The narrow-and-winding nature of many of West Virginia’s roads
  • High number of rural roads (62% of all fatal crashes in West Virginia occur on a rural road.)
  • Poor road maintenance, especially on many of the rural roads (Unlike many other states, which have shifted road maintenance responsibilities to local governments, the West Virginia Division of Highways is responsible for maintaining 95% of the state’s roads.)
  • High rates of negligent driving and impaired driving (as charted in the sections above)
  • Severe winter weather

Talk to an Experienced West Virginia Car Accident Lawyer Today

If you or someone you love has been injured or killed in a West Virginia car crash, please contact the Morgantown auto accident attorneys at Colombo Law right away.

Our lawyers offer decades of experience in pursuing maximal compensation for injured West Virginians and their families. We serve clients all across the state, including these areas: Bridgeport, Buckhannon, Clarksburg, Elkins, Fairmont, Morgantown, Parkersburg, and Weston.

Here’s our promise to you:

  • A free case evaluation with absolutely no obligation to hire us
  • Honest guidance and advice
  • No attorney fees unless and until we recover damages for you
  • Our passion, respect, time, and attention

Come find out why we have a 99% success rate. Contact Colombo Law and schedule a free West Virginia auto accident consultation right away.

Simply call 888-860-1414 (304-599-4229 in Morgantown) or contact us online. Time limits apply to vehicle injury claims in West Virginia, so please don’t delay.


by Colombo Law
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