The most comprehensive recent overview was published by the US Department of Transportation in June 2012. You can find it here. It’s an analysis of the data from 2010. Let’s get the headline out of the way. That’s one person killed in a traffic accident every sixteen minutes. As a percentage of the population, that’s actually a significant improvement in the rate of fatalities, in part resulting from the increasingly high percentage of both drivers and passengers using seat belts. In the good old days, people were driving vehicles that were not designed with auto safety in mind. It was all about the look and feel of each make and model. Manufactures never worried a vehicle that looked good could catch fire easily or crush people because the frame of the vehicle was not reinforced. It was cheaper to pay out compensation to people injured or the families of those killed than to change the design. Now both the National Highway Traffic Safety Authority and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety subject all vehicles to crash and rollover tests. With the results published and star ratings allocated, consumers everywhere can see which vehicles are the safest to drive.
What are the overall figures?
In 2010, 5,419,000 traffic accidents were believed reported to the police. Of these, 3,847,000 involved damage to property only. In the remaining crashes, 2,239,000 were injured and 32,885 were killed. The first fact to note is that there’s no system for collecting actual numbers. You would think all states would collect accident data from their law enforcement agencies so they could better define their policies for traffic management and regulation. In turn, federal government would collect the data from the states and collate it into meaningful information on trends. This does not happen. States prefer not to know or, if they do know, they prefer not to publicize the number of accidents. The numbers given above are statistical probabilities. The NHTSA generates national estimates based on data sampled from sixty locations around America.
What is the overall situation on gender?
It’s a fact men drive more miles than women every year. There’s also evidence suggesting they are less likely to wear their seat belt, drive within the speed limit or avoid driving after consuming alcohol. That’s probably why more men than women die each year: http://www.iihs.org/research/fatality.aspx?topicName=Gender .
When do most accidents occur?
It might seem obvious that most accidents would occur during the winter months because driving conditions are made difficult by snow and ice on the roads. Except that’s not what happens. According to the NHTSA, the months with the highest rates of accidents are July, October, August and September: see http://www-fars.nhtsa.dot.gov/Crashes/CrashesTime.aspx . This reflects the sudden desire of people to drive for leisure purposes, forgetting to maintain and repair their vehicles before setting off and finding it tiring to travel longer distances. Accidents are most likely at weekends.
What vehicles are people most likely to be driving in fatal accidents?
According to the IIHS, the vehicles to avoid driving are a Nissan 350Z or Titan, or Chevrolet Aveo or Cobalt: http://www.iihs.org/externaldata/srdata/docs/sr4605.pdf . This is because these vehicles lack much of the standard safety design technology to keep drivers and passengers safe in an auto accident. This is actually a change. In the past, the most dangerous vehicles were the SUVs because they were likely to rollover. As a result of engineering and financial effort to redesign these vehicles, they have become among the safest on the roads with the highest survival rates.
Moving to the overall statistics, there’s a close-run race between passenger cars at 39.7% and light trucks at 38.1%:
http://www-fars.nhtsa.dot.gov/Vehicles/VehiclesAllVehicles.aspx . Of these, 28.5% are driving a 4-door sedan. Only 0.7% of people in convertibles were killed which is interesting because the lack of bracing with a roof and no protection in a rollover should make them more dangerous. It seems people driving these vehicles drive them with safety in mind.
Who is most likely to be killed?
Out of the total of 32,367 killed in 2011, 16,430 were driving a passenger vehicle (that’s about 50% of those killed). It’s actually significantly safer to be a passenger with only about 18% dying. For the record, only 14% of those dying were on a motorbike and 16% were non-motorists. It’s perhaps alarming to see people on the sidewalk or on pedal cycles more at risk than motorcyclists. Source: http://www-fars.nhtsa.dot.gov/People/PeopleAllVictims.aspx
Where are you most likely to be killed?
In the death race 2011, Texas reigns supreme with 3,015 deaths. California had 2,791 fatalities, Florida 2,444, North Carolina 1,227 and New York 1,169. Source: http://www-fars.nhtsa.dot.gov/States/StatesCrashesAndAllVictims.aspx
Where in Texas are you most likely to be killed?
The answer is Harris County with 364 deaths in 2011. The only other counties coming close were Dallas with 158, Bexar 151, Tarrant 149 and El Paso 90. For those of you not up on Texas geography, Harris County has just over 4 million residents, i.e. it’s the third largest metropolitan area in the US, and it covers Houston, The Woodlands and Sugar Land.
So here’s the most probable accident
A young man aged 23 had graduated and got a job paying well. He announced his financial independence by buying a sporty Chevrolet Aveo and, having celebrated Independence Day with a significant amount of alcohol, Friday July 5 had him leaving his parent’s home in Old Town Spring in Harris County, Texas, to pick up his girlfriend. They decided to have a buffet meal at Spring Creek Barbeque at 4420 FM 1960 Rd W. After some ribs and Carolina Pulled Pork washed down with some beer for him and red wine for her, ten o’clock saw them back in the car and heading to a quiet place. Intending to turn right off 1960 Road on to Walters Road, he misjudged the speed of an oncoming vehicle. The collision killed his girlfriend and the driver of the oncoming vehicle. He was seriously injured, but survived. Both cars were totaled. The combination of alcohol in his bloodstream, a heavy meal and general tiredness meant his attention levels were low. He was probably distracted by thoughts of where to go with his girlfriend to make out.
As a profile, this is one of the most statistically probable ways for people to die in a car crash.
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