Which Tri-State county has the deadliest roads?

CINCINNATI -- Transportation-related deaths in the Tri-State have been on a steady decline over the last few decades, but that decrease might be starting to slow and even reverse in some areas, according to newly released data.

A study published last month in the medical journal JAMA analyzed more than 80 million death records from 1980 through 2014, looking for trends that could link cause and geographical location of death, zooming its focus all the way down to a county-by-county level.

One of those trends, the study found, is that transportation-related deaths trend higher in rural areas.

The numbers show that this trend squarely applies here in the Tri-State. They also align with another study last year showing pedestrian deaths are on the rise across the region.

Among Tri-State counties, the study showed decreases in transportation-related deaths ranging anywhere from approximately 25 to 75 percent since 1980. Hamilton County, which contains the largest urban area in the region, has seen the lowest rate of transportation-related fatalities -- approximately 8.4 of every 100,000 deaths are transportation-related -- while Carroll County in Northern Kentucky saw the highest rate, at 30 per 100,000 deaths.

Here's a county-by-county breakdown for the whole Tri-State, in increasing order of frequency:

 

 

 

Although Hamilton County's rate of fatal crashes is relatively low, the most recent data from the Ohio State Highway Patrol -- which keeps nearly-real-time counts of fatal crashes in an online database -- also show that, in recent years, fatal crashes have trended up.

Map showing every fatal traffic incident in Hamilton County from 2014 through 2016. Click or tap to enlarge. (Courtesy Ohio State Highway Patrol)

It's a trend that holds true across southwest Ohio. Butler and Adams counties were the only two to see a decrease between 2015 and 2016, according to OSHP records. All the others either held steady or saw an increase. Other counties that have seen an uptick in recent years include Clermont, Highland, Montgomery and Warren.

Map showing rate of change in traffic fatalities by county in Ohio, as of Jan. 3, 2017. Click or tap to enlarge. (Courtesy Ohio State Highway Patrol)

Crash data in this time range was not immediately available for counties in Northern Kentucky and southeast Indiana.

Statewide, Ohio saw 1,077 traffic deaths in 2016 -- down slightly from 2015 but still much higher than in 2013, which saw a low of 918, according to the OSHP. 

Ellen Meara, a professor at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice in New Hampshire, told CNN that the study's results -- being so hyper-localized and putting states' differences into focus -- can help law- and policy-makers identify health trends.

"An interesting finding when deaths are mapped by small areas is the way some causes of death follow state boundaries, which suggests that state policies likely play a role in saving lives," she said.

She even used the Ohio River as an example: "Deaths due to transport injuries, for example, look very different north of the Ohio River, in Ohio, Indiana and Michigan, compared with Kentucky," she said.

Pat LaFleur reports on transportation and development for WCPO. Connect with him on Twitter (@pat_laFleur).

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