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300,000 Involved in 2009 Car Crashes, But Numbers Still Down

Numbers released Thursday by Indiana University’s Center for Criminal Justice Research show the number of car crashes in the Hoosier State was down in 2009.

IU Pedestrians

Photo: Arianna Prothero

Data from the Center for Criminal Justice Research show counties with colleges, like Monroe County, see a higher incidence of auto accidents per capita than most.

Numbers released Thursday by Indiana University’s Center for Criminal Justice Research show the number of car crashes in the Hoosier State was down in 2009.

In 2009, there were more than 189,000 car crashes in Indiana, involving more than 300,000 people.  Though not all of those were Hoosiers, it’s a number equivalent to about one in every 21 people in the state.  Those wrecks cost everyone involved an estimated $4.3 billion, or more than $22,000 per fender bender.

The data also confirm what drivers in some of the state’s college towns already know – take extra care behind the wheel if you’re on the road with young people.  Men aged 18 to 20 and women aged 16 to 17 are the most likely groups in each gender to be killed in a car crash.  Correspondingly, Vanderburgh, Tippecanoe and Monroe Counties – all places with large student populations – rank first through third in terms of accidents when compared to population density.

Though more women were hurt in crashes, men have a much greater tendency to die said Center for Criminal Justice Research spokeswoman Dona Sapp.

“There are specific vehicles types where the fatality rate is higher,” she said. “For instance motorcycles – there are going to be more men riding motorcycles than females.”

But Sapp says Indiana is leading a nationwide trend toward lower crash numbers.  Those 189-thousand wrecks still represent better than a 7% decrease from 2008.  Sapp notes fewer miles are also being driven, meaning the economy may be keeping accident incidence down, but also says increased law enforcement vigilance is responsible.  Bloomington State Police Sergeant Curt Durnil said police monitor crash data too.

“The state police have targeted what we call ‘high-crash areas’,” Durnil said.  “We locate these areas and we see from the data that’s given to us what the crashes look like in that area.  If the crashes are particularly high, we will have enforcement patrols in that area.”

Durnil said those patrols have also helped increase the number of people wearing safety belts.  One last sobering statistic about wearing a seatbelt, especially if you’re behind the wheel:  Drivers who weren’t buckled in were 59 times more likely to die in an accident than those who were.

Stan Jastrzebski

WFIU/WTIU News Senior Editor Stan Jastrzebski spent time as a reporter with WGN Radio in Chicago and as an editor at Network Indiana, an Indianapolis news service. Stan is the winner of awards from the Associated Press, the RTDNA, the Indiana Broadcasters Association and the Society of Professional Journalists. He hosts WFIU's Ask the Mayor and anchors WTIU's InFocus.

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