An Evaluation of the Increase in Traffic Fatalities in Virginia in 1977

Report No: 79-R10

Published in 1978

About the report:

Since the Arab oil embargo of 1973 the number of fatal traffic accidents and fatalities in Virginia has been relatively stable from year to year. However, in September 1977 fatalities began to occur at an alarming rate and by the end of 1977, the total number of traffic fatalities had increased dramatically from that which occurred in 1976. In an effort to determine the reason(s) for this increase, fatal traffic accidents which occurred in Virginia in 1976 and 1977 were examined by using data stored in the Fatal Accident Reporting System (FARS). Demographic characteristics of the fatal accidents such as day of week, type of road, kind of location, and age and sex of driver were compared for the fatalities occurring in 1976 and 1977. The data accessed from the FARS system were examined according to three categories: accident, vehicle/driver, and person. In the category of accident related factors, only classification of trafficway was found to differ significantly for 1976 and 1977, with an increase in interstate and other U. S. route accidents in 1977. Vehicle related factors were similar for 1976 and 1977, except for an increase in the involvement of vehicles with lower occupancy rates in 1977. There were also some changes in the distributions of vehicle weight with the vehicles involved in fatal crashes in 1977 being slightly heavier than those in 1976. For driver related variables, there were fewer drivers involved in fatal crashes in 1977 who were considered impaired (asleep, inattentive, other driver impairment, etc.), and the 1977 drivers had been involved in fewer previous accidents and had fewer previous traffic convictions. For persons involved in fatal accidents in 1976 and 1977, there were changes in the percentages of seat belt usage; in particular, in 1977 there was a reduction of seat belt usage among persons in the driver position. For all categories of factors there were data which were unusable due to formatting problems, insufficient information, and/or apparent coding inconsistencies in the FARS system.

Disclaimer Statement:The contents of this report reflect the views of the author(s), who is responsible for the facts and the accuracy of the data presented herein. The contents do not necessarily reflect the official views or policies of the Virginia Department of Transportation, the Commonwealth Transportation Board, or the Federal Highway Administration. This report does not constitute a standard, specification, or regulation. Any inclusion of manufacturer names, trade names, or trademarks is for identification purposes only and is not to be considered an endorsement.


  • Deborah Mitchell, Cheryl W. Lynn

Last updated: January 26, 2024

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