West Virginia is home to some of the worst accident and fatality rates in the nation. Do we just have a lot of bad drivers? What makes our roads so dangerous here in the mountain state?

According to a report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were more than 20 deaths for every 100,000 residents between 2006 and 2010 (the period studied). This is nearly twice the national average of just over 12 deaths per 100,000 people. This resulted in 1.89 deaths per 100 million miles, compared to the national rate of 1.27 during those years.

Knowing this, it seems impossible that poor driving habits can be solely responsible for such troubling statistics. What other factors contribute to the unusually high rates of car accidents and fatalities on West Virginia roads?

Hazards that influence West Virginia driving

  • Mountainous terrain. The degree of driving difficulty in West Virginia is, quite simply, higher due to the actual landscape of the state. Shifting terrain gets even more difficult to navigate when combined with West Virginia’s high rates of drunk driving, distracted driving, and drivers operating motor vehicles without a seatbelt.
  • Winding roads. The winding and narrow roads that West Virginia’s mountainous terrain necessitates are hazardous even at the best of times. Add in the complications of negligent driving listed in the bullet point above and potential weather concerns, and you have a recipe for accidents that is difficult to deny.
  • Many rural roads. More than half of West Virginia’s accidents take place outside city limits on small, rural roads. These roads are not well-lit and not well-maintained, which can influence the safety of the roads.
  • Inadequate road maintenance. Unlike many other states which have put rural roads under the purview of local government, West Virginia still has its state Division of Highways in charge of 95% of its roads. Unfortunately, the Division of Highways is not keeping them up to a satisfactory degree, which is contributing to accidents. Hazards like potholes—and those who swerve to avoid them—come into play here.
  • High rates of bad driving habits. West Virginia’s negligent and impaired driving rates are intolerably high, which makes roads dangerous for everyone. Defensive driving can only go so far in protecting you from the unpredictable nature of such drivers.
  • Severe weather. West Virginia experiences all four seasons, and the consequences for road safety that go along with that. Winter weather is more dangerous in any state, and the mountainous terrain of West Virginia only magnifies the issue.

What can you do?

Practice defense driving as much as you can. You may even consider attending a voluntary defensive driving class to learn best practices. Most importantly, in the event of an accident, take care of yourself. Seek medical assistance immediately and contact an attorney to discuss the possibility of a personal injury suit in the event of a crash that was due to the negligence of another.


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