ANNAPOLIS – Maryland’s vehicular accident rate declined during the first half of 1995, and the death toll on state roads could be headed for an 11-year low.
Those are some of the findings of a Capital News Service computer analysis of State Highway Administration records.
While the raw number of reported accidents is increasing, that increase is more than offset by higher levels of traffic, SHA records show.
According to the agency, there were 44.2 billion vehicle miles traveled in Maryland last year, up nearly 8 percent from 1993. That measure is an aggregate of all the miles travelled on state roads by all types of motor vehicles, based on a series of traffic surveys.
About 64 percent of those miles were driven on interstate highways, principal state highways and freeways.
At the same time, the number of accidents has increased at a slower rate, up roughly 3 percent during early 1995. Last year, there were 96,862 reported accidents on state highways, according to the SHA. Preliminary data from the SHA showed that there were about 49,000 through the first half of 1995.
Prince George’s County had the highest ratio of reported accidents to miles travelled in 1994, with 2.51 accidents per 1 million miles travelled, followed closely by Montgomery (2.07) and Baltimore (1.74). Washington County (0.78) had the lowest ratio, followed by Allegany (0.82) and Worcester (0.83).
Those figures may not be the definitive total of the number of accidents. Because the number of property damage accidents is based on police reports, it may go up or down depending on the whim of the drivers, said Chuck Brown, department spokesman.
The drop in the accident rate has occurred even as Maryland drivers are moving faster on interstate highways, said Manu Shah, assistant director of the administration’s highway division.
“The general trend on interstates is speeds have been up one or two miles per hour for the last few years,” Shah said. “But overall, there has been a rapid decline in all types of accidents.”
Other than a gradual increase in 1980, the overall rate of accidents has declined each year since 1968.
The only exception to that decline was in the number of fatal accidents. Through June, 349 people were killed on Maryland roads in 1995 — up by more than 50 over the same period a year before. Officials blamed the increase on more traffic in February and March, because of a mild winter.
Nevertheless, as of Nov. 1, 563 people had been killed on Maryland roads. This total could be the lowest in a decade, barring an unusually high number of fatal accidents through December.
Last year’s total of 657 deaths was the lowest since 1984.
In its six month report, the traffic department released preliminary figures for accidents in early 1995, claiming that motorcycle deaths are at a five-year low.
The report also said that the number of pedestrian deaths and alcohol-related fatal accidents were above average in 1995. 74 people lost their lives in traffic deaths involving alcohol through April, the report said.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that people have an 86 percent chance of getting in a motor vehicle accident during a 75-year lifetime. Even so, Maryland officials have tried to minimize those risks through a series of campaigns.
Maryland drivers increasingly using of safety measures like child restraints and seat belts, Shah said.
The motorcycle helmet law has helped cut the number of deaths, Shah said. Only 10 motorcyclists were killed in the first half of the year, compared with 13 last year and 20 in 1993. -30-