Study: MS ranked deadliest state for fatal car crashes

FORREST COUNTY, MS (WDAM) - What are the chances you will die in a car crash?  A recent study says it depends on which state you are in.

Mississippi averaged 23.1 deaths per 100,000 people due to car crashes in 2016, ranking it as the deadliest state in that category, according to a study examining the effects of distracted driving.

"Speed is a big one, distracted driving of course is another one, we need to be aware of our surroundings at all time," said Sergeant Travis Luck with Mississippi Highway Patrol.

"Small things create big factors that cause fatal crashes," said Luck.

According to MHP, there have been 15 fatal wrecks in Troop J, which covers nine counties of the Pine Belt, this year. The most recent was less than a week ago in Forrest County, when an 18-year-old was killed in a collision with a tanker truck the morning after she graduated high school.

Fatal Wrecks, per MHP - 2017/2018:

  • Covington - 4/1
  • Forrest - 2/2
  • Greene - 2/2
  • Jeff Davis - 3/2
  • Jones - 9/3
  • Lamar - 8/3
  • Marion - 4/1
  • Perry - 1/0
  • Wayne - 3/1

According to the study, published by Safewise, more than 1,000 people are injured and nine people are killed because of distracted drivers a day.

While cell phones may not be involved in all distracted driving crashes, Luck said they can often play a big role behind the wheel.

"We all recommend that drivers, if it's very important, that they just pull the vehicle to a safe location," said Luck. "We encourage drivers not to text and drive, due to the fact that when you take your eyes of the roadways, it's a minimum of 27 or so to go back to where you left your concentration."

While Mississippi does have a texting ban, the study criticizes the state for not having a law banning handheld cellphone use. The study also identifies Mississippi, Louisiana and Wyoming as having the worst enforcement of distracted driving laws, with less than 100 tickets issued collectively over the three to ten years since their bans were passed.

Luck said the law focuses on a 'careless driving' citation, rather than texting or handheld cell phone use.

"You have to prove that that person is texting, but we all know people are out there on social media, emails, all sorts of different things on their device, so it's kinda a hard thing to really focus on," said Luck.

There are several apps available to turn off notifications while behind the wheel. Apple says the Do Not Disturb while driving feature, available for iOS 11,  can sense when you might be driving and prevent notifications.

To turn it on, you can go to Settings > Control Center > Customize Controls > Do Not Disturb While Driving. You can change the method your iPhone uses to determine whether you're driving, or turn the feature on manually.

Sgt. Luck said he believes those apps could possibly help save a life.

"I feel they can, but we all know we have to utilize them," said Luck.

The report includes tips for drivers to "help kick your cellphone addiction" and put the phone down behind the wheel:

  • Commit to yourself that you will not drive distracted
  • Before you start your car, turn off your phone
  • Put it out of reach so you won’t get tempted to use it
  • Lead by example
  • Pay attention
  • Advocate for policies against distracted driving at your work
  • Advocate for strict distracted driving laws in your city and state
  • Encourage others to #justdrive