Highway Safety

The cost and crashworthiness of vehicles as well as drivers’ safety habits affect the cost of auto insurance. Out of concern for public safety and to help reduce the cost of crashes, insurers support safe driving initiatives. It is a major supporter of anti-drunk driving and seatbelt usage campaigns.

LIVES SAVED BY SAFETY DEVICES

  • Airbags: Airbags are designed to inflate in moderate to severe frontal crashes. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says that among people age 13 and older frontal airbags saved 2,213 lives in 2012. Airbags, combined with seatbelts, are the most effective safety protection available for passenger vehicles. Seatbelts alone reduce the risk of fatal injury to front-seat passenger car occupants by 45 percent. The fatality-reducing effectiveness for airbags is 14 percent when no seatbelt is used and 11 percent when a seatbelt is used in conjunction with airbags. Side airbags, which protect the head, chest and abdomen, reduce driver deaths by an estimated 37 percent, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
  • Seatbelts: Among passenger vehicle occupants over the age of four, seatbelts saved an estimated 12,174 lives in 2012 and nearly 63,000 lives during the five-year period from 2008 to 2012. If all vehicle occupants had worn seatbelts in 2012, an additional 3,031 lives could have been saved. In fatal crashes in 2011, 77 percent of passenger vehicle occupants who were totally ejected from the vehicle were killed.
  • Child Safety Seats: NHTSA says that in 2012 the lives of 284 children under the age of five were saved by restraints.
  • Motorcycle Helmets: NHTSA estimates that helmets saved the lives of 1,699 motorcyclists in 2012. If all motorcyclists had worn helmets in 2012, an additional 781 lives could have been saved.
  • Helmets are estimated to be 37 percent effective in preventing fatal injuries to motorcycle riders and 41 percent for motorcycle passengers. In other words, for every 100 motorcycle riders killed in crashes while not wearing a helmet, 37 of them could have been saved had all 100 worn helmets.

MOTOR VEHICLE CRASHES

The estimated cost of motor vehicle crash-related deaths, injuries and property damage was $276.5 billion in 2012, according the National Safety Council (NSC). The costs include wage and productivity losses, medical expenses, administrative expenses, employer costs and property damage. The number of motor vehicle deaths rose by 5 percent in 2012, according to the NSC. This would mark the first annual increase since 2005. There were 11.56 motor vehicle crash deaths per 100,000 population in 2012. The annual mileage death rate was 1.23 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled in 2012. (Note: National Safety Council figures are not comparable to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) figures below. The NSC counts both traffic and non-traffic deaths that occur within a year of the accident, while NHTSA counts only traffic deaths that occur within 30 days.)

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation's National Center for Statistics and Analysis of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA, http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov), traffic fatalities fell 3.1 percent in 2013 to 32,719 people from 33,782 in 2012. 2012 was the first year with a year-to-year increase in fatalities since 2005. In 2013 an estimated 2.31 million people were injured in motor vehicle crashes, down 2.1 percent from 2.36 in 2012, according to a NHTSA report. About 90 people died each day in motor vehicle crashes in 2013, and 6,337 people were injured.

A statistical projection of traffic fatalities for the first half of 2014 released by NHTSA shows a decrease of about 2.2 percent when compared with the first half of 2013.  In addition, vehicle miles traveled increased by about 0.4 percent at the same time, resulting in a fatality rate of 1.02 per 100 million vehicle miles traveled in the first half of 2014, down from 1.05 in the first half of 2013.

NHTSA property damage figures shown below are based on accidents reported to the police and do not include fender bender accidents.

  

MOTOR VEHICLE CRASHES, 2004-2013

Year Fatal Injury Property damage only Total crashes
2004 38,444 1,862,000 4,281,000 6,181,000
2005 39,252 1,816,000 4,304,000 6,159,000
2006 38,648 1,746,000 4,189,000 5,973,000
2007 37,435 1,711,000 4,275,000 6,024,000
2008 34,172 1,630,000 4,146,000 5,811,000
2009 30,862 1,517,000 3,957,000 5,505,000
2010 30,296 1,542,000 3,847,000 5,419,000
2011 29,757 1,530,000 3,778,000 5,338,000
2012 31,006 1,634,000 3,950,000 5,615,000
2013 30,057 1,591,000 4,066,000 5,687,000

Source: U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

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TRAFFIC DEATHS, 2004-2013

 

Year  Fatalities Annual
percent change
Fatality rate per
100 million vehicle
miles traveled
Fatality rate
per 100,000
registered vehicles
2004 42,836 -0.1% 1.44 18.00
2005 43,510 1.6 1.46 17.71
2006 42,708 -1.8 1.42 16.99
2007 41,259 -3.4 1.36 16.02
2008 37,423 -9.3 1.26 14.43
2009 33,883 -9.5 1.15 13.08
2010 32,999 -2.6 1.11 12.82
2011 32,479 -1.6 1.10 12.25
2012 33,782 4.0 1.14 12.63
2013 32,719 -3.1 1.10 NA

NA=Data not available.

Source: U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

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  • The number of people injured in motor vehicle crashes fell by 2.1 percent to 2.31 million in 2013 from 2.36 million in 2012.
  • The injury rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled was 78 in 2013, down from 80 in 2012.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, vehicle occupants accounted for 68 percent of traffic deaths in 2013. Motorcycle riders accounted for 14 percent. Pedestrians accounted for another 15 percent; pedalcyclists and other nonoccupants accounted for the remainder.

 

MOTOR VEHICLE TRAFFIC DEATHS BY STATE, 2012-2013

  Number of deaths     Number of deaths  
State 2012 2013 Percent change State 2012 2013 Percent change
Alabama  865 852 -1.5% Montana  205 229 12.0%
Alaska  59 51 -14.0 Nebraska  212 211 -0.5
Arizona  821 849 3.4 Nevada  261 262 0.4
Arkansas  560 483 -14.0 New Hampshire  108 135 25.0
California  2,966 3,000 1.1 New Jersey  589 542 -8.0
Colorado  474 481 1.5 New Mexico  366 310 -15.0
Connecticut  264 276 4.5 New York  1,180 1,199 1.6
Delaware  114 99 -13.0 North Carolina  1,299 1,289 -0.8
D.C. 15 20 33.0 North Dakota  170 148 -13.0
Florida  2,431 2,407 -1.0 Ohio  1,121 989 -12.0
Georgia  1,192 1,179 -1.1 Oklahoma  709 678 -4.4
Hawaii  125 102 -18.0 Oregon  337 313 -7.1
Idaho  184 214 16.0 Pennsylvania  1,310 1,208 -7.8
Illinois  956 991 3.7 Rhode Island  64 65 1.6
Indiana  781 783 0.3 South Carolina  863 767 -11.0
Iowa  365 317 -13.0 South Dakota  133 135 1.5
Kansas  405 350 -14.0 Tennessee  1,015 995 -2.0
Kentucky  746 638 -14.0 Texas  3,408 3,382 -0.8
Louisiana  723 703 -2.8 Utah  217 220 1.4
Maine  164 145 -12.0 Vermont  77 69 -10.0
Maryland  511 465 -9.0 Virginia  776 740 -4.6
Massachusetts  383 326 -15.0 Washington  438 436 -0.5
Michigan  940 947 0.7 West Virginia  339 332 -2.1
Minnesota  395 387 -2.0 Wisconsin  615 543 -12.0
Mississippi  582 613 5.3 Wyoming  123 87 -29.0
Missouri  826 757 -8.4 United States 33,782 32,719 -3.1%

Source: U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

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DRIVERS IN MOTOR VEHICLE CRASHES BY AGE, 2012

Age group Number of
licensed drivers
Percent of
total
Drivers in
fatal crashes
Involvement
rate (1)
Drivers in
all crashes
Involvement
rate (1)
Under 16 127,283 0.1% 121 95.06 31,562 24,797
16 to 20 11,954,276 5.6 4,211 35.23 1,245,410 10,418
21 to 24 14,229,278 6.7 4,738 33.30 1,140,942 8,018
25 to 34 36,687,339 17.3 8,950 24.40 2,108,045 5,746
35 to 44 36,527,225 17.2 7,311 20.02 1,683,127 4,608
45 to 54 40,594,647 19.2 7,601 18.72 1,601,892 3,946
55 to 64 35,750,452 16.9 5,899 16.50 1,157,852 3,239
65 to 74 21,733,570 10.3 3,212 14.78 564,736 2,598
Over 74 14,210,760 6.7 2,532 17.82 347,352 2,444
Total 211,814,830 100.0% 45,337 (2) 21.40  9,881,681 (2)  4,665

(1) Per 100,000 licensed drivers.
(2) Includes drivers of unknown age.

Source: U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration; Federal Highway Administration.

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MOTOR VEHICLE DEATHS PER 100,000 PERSONS BY AGE, 2013

Source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

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SEX OF DRIVERS INVOLVED IN CRASHES, 2004-2013 (1)

 

  Fatal crashes Injury crashes
  Male Female Male Female
Year Number Rate (2) Number Rate (2) Number Rate (2) Number Rate (2)
2004 41,876 42.06 15,272 15.38 1,911,852 1,920 1,482,315 1,493
2005 42,947 42.84 14,967 14.92 1,836,711 1,832 1,425,161 1,421
2006 41,912 41.49 14,661 14.43 1,762,552 1,745 1,387,324 1,366
2007 40,804 39.82 14,099 13.65 1,719,000 1,677 1,339,000 1,296
2008 36,881 35.59 12,568 12.00 1,609,000 1,553 1,280,000 1,223
2009 32,807 31.47 11,825 11.22 1,499,561 1,438 1,224,613 1,162
2010 31,965 30.63 11,811 11.17 1,516,000 1,453 1,265,000 1,196
2011 31,809 30.32 11,209 10.48 1,507,000 1,436 1,244,000 1,163
2012 33,124 31.55 11,509 10.77 1,634,884 1,557 1,314,534 1,230
2013 32,442 30.89 11,364 10.61 1,584,000 1,509 1,331,000 1,242
  Property damage-only crashes Total crashes
  Male Female Male Female
Year Number Rate (2) Number Rate (2) Number Rate (2) Number Rate (2)
2004 4,404,779 4,424 3,037,126 3,058 6,358,507 6,387 4,534,713 4,566
2005 4,357,188 4,347 3,007,038 2,998 6,236,846 6,222 4,447,166 4,435
2006 4,232,184 4,190 2,967,964 2,922 6,036,648 5,976 4,369,949 4,302
2007 4,345,000 4,241 3,066,000 2,968 6,105,000 5,968 4,418,000 4,278
2008 4,174,000 4,028 2,967,000 2,834 5,820,000 5,617 4,260,000 4,069
2009 3,913,473 3,753 2,931,260 2,782 5,445,840 5,223 4,167,698 3,956
2010 3,854,000 3,693 2,862,000 2,707 5,402,000 5,176 4,139,000 3,915
2011 3,675,000 3,503 2,921,000 2,730 5,213,000 4,970 4,176,000 3,904
2012 3,880,163 3,696 3,006,762 3,251 5,548,171 5,285 4,332,806 4,056
2013 3,990,000 3,800 3,092,000 2,886 5,607,000 5,340 4,434,000 4,138

(1) Includes motorcycle riders and restricted and graduated drivers license holders in some states.
(2) Rate per 100,000 licensed drivers.

Source: U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

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DRIVING BEHAVIORS REPORTED FOR DRIVERS AND MOTORCYCLE OPERATORS INVOLVED IN FATAL CRASHES, 2013

Behavior Number Percent
Driving too fast for conditions or in excess of posted speed limit or racing 8,864 19.9%
Under the influence of alcohol, drugs or medication 6,005 13.5
Failure to keep in proper lane 3,720 8.3
Failure to yield right of way 3,149 7.1
Distracted (phone, talking, eating, etc.) 2,959 6.6
Operating vehicle in a careless manner 2,116 4.7
Overcorrecting/oversteering 1,990 4.5
Failure to obey traffic signs, signals or officer 1,780 4.0
Swerving or avoiding due to wind, slippery surface, other
vehicle, object, nonmotorist in roadway, etc.
1,628 3.7
Operating vehicle in erratic, reckless, or negligent manner 1,511 3.4
Vision obscured (rain, snow, glare, lights, buildings, trees, etc.)   3.3
Drowsy, asleep, fatigued, ill, or blacked out 1,231 2.8
Driving wrong way in one-way traffic or on wrong side of road 858 1.9
Making improper turn 689 1.5
Other factors 5,165 11.6
None reported 13,692 30.7
Unknown 5,441 12.2
Total drivers (1) 44,574 100.0%

(1) The sum of percentages is greater than total drivers as more than one factor may be present for the same driver.

Source: U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

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CRASHES BY FIRST HARMFUL EVENT, TYPE OF COLLISION AND CRASH SEVERITY, 2013

 

  Crash severity    
  Fatal Injury Property damage only Total crashes
Type of collision Number Percent of
total fatal
crashes
Number Percent of
total injury
crashes
Number Percent of
total property
damage only
crashes
Number Percent of
total
crashes
Angle 5,394 17.9% 415,000 26.1% 770,000 18.9% 1,190,000 20.9%
Rear end 1,806 6.0 503,000 31.6 1,326,000 32.6 1,831,000 32.2
Sideswipe 757 2.5 89,000 5.6 539,000 13.3 629,000 11.1
Head on 2,808 9.3 66,000 4.1 68,000 1.7 136,000 2.4
Other/unknown 118 0.4 6,000 0.4 75,000 1.8 81,000 1.4
     Total 10,883 36.2% 1,079,000 67.8% 2,778,000 68.3% 3,868,000 68.0%
Collision with fixed object                
Pole/post 1,388 4.6 54,000 3.4 136,000 3.3 191,000 3.4
Culvert/curb/ditch 2,366 7.9 57,000 3.6 123,000 3.0 182,000 3.2
Shrubbery/tree 2,389 7.9 44,000 2.7 71,000 1.8 117,000 2.1
Guard rail 877 2.9 28,000 1.8 75,000 1.9 104,000 1.8
Embankment 1,036 3.4 18,000 1.1 26,000 0.6 45,000 0.8
Bridge 192 0.6 4,000 0.2 14,000 0.3 18,000 0.3
Other/unknown 1,766 5.9 67,000 4.2 170,000 4.2 239,000 4.2
     Total      10,014 33.3% 272,000 17.1% 616,000 15.1% 898,000 15.8%
Collision with object, not fixed                
Parked motor vehicle 349 1.2 38,000 2.4 299,000 7.4 338,000 5.9
Animal 180 0.6 14,000 0.9 259,000 6.4 273,000 4.8
Pedestrian 4,380 14.6 60,000 3.8 3,000 0.1 67,000 1.2
Pedalcyclist 742 2.5 47,000 3.0 6,000 0.1 54,000 1.0
Train 115 0.4 (1) (1) (1) (1) 1,000 (1)
Other/unknown 310 1.0 11,000 0.7 54,000 1.3 66,000 1.2
     Total 6,076 20.2% 171,000 10.8% 622,000 15.3% 799,000 14.0%
Noncollision                
Rollover 2,720 9.0 62,000 3.9 33,000 0.8 97,000 1.7
Other/unknown 348 1.2 7,000 0.5 18,000 0.4 25,000 0.4
     Total 3,068 10.2% 69,000 4.3% 50,000 1.2% 123,000 2.2%
Total 30,057 (2) 100.0% 1,591,000 100.0% 4,066,000 100.0% 5,687,000 100.0%

(1) Less than 500 or  0.05 percent.
(2) Includes 16 crashes with unknown first harmful events.

Source: U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

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MOTOR VEHICLE CRASHES BY TIME OF YEAR

Traffic fatalities spike during different periods.

  • In 2012 July had the most fatal crashes, February had the least, according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
  • The beginning of daylight savings is linked to an increase in auto accidents, according to an analysis by the University of British Columbia and a study by researchers at John Hopkins and Stanford University.
  • Holidays are generally a time of increased travel. In 2012, Thanksgiving was the holiday period with the most motor vehicle deaths (405), followed by Labor Day (378), Memorial Day (367), Christmas Day (351) and New Year’s Day (348) and Independence Day (157), and See chart below.
  • Fifty more people on average die in traffic crashes during Thanksgiving week than during other weeks of the year, according to a University of Alabama study. Speeding, alcohol, time of day and weather, factors that affect crashes all year, are exaggerated during the holiday.
  • In 2012, 50 percent of fatal crashes occurred on Friday, Saturday or Sunday, according to NHTSA.

 

HOLIDAY DRIVING, 2008-2012

  Holiday period (1)
  New Year’s Day Memorial Day Independence Day Labor Day Thanksgiving Day Christmas Day
Year Deaths (2) Percent alcohol- impaired (3) Deaths (2) Percent alcohol- impaired (3) Deaths (2) Percent alcohol- impaired (3) Deaths (2) Percent alcohol- impaired (3) Deaths (2) Percent alcohol- impaired (3) Deaths (2) Percent alcohol- impaired (3)
2008 407 (4) 41% 414 (3) 41% 472 (3) 44% 473 (3) 40% 484 (4) 35% 409 (4) 32%
2009 458 (4) 40 462 (3) 42 398 (3) 39 351 (3) 38 401 (4) 34 248 (3) 36
2010 286 (3) 48 389 (3) 40 365 (3) 38 390 (3) 35 417 (4) 40 249 (3) 35
2011 304 (3) 43 389 (3) 40 405 (3) 38 373 (3) 36 375 (4) 33 256 (3) 35
2012 348 (3) NA 367 (3) NA 157 (1) NA 378 (3) NA 405 (4) NA 351 (4) NA

(1) The length of the holiday period depends on the day of the week on which the holiday falls. Memorial Day and Labor Day are always 3.25 days; Thanksgiving is always 4.25 days; and New Year’s Day, Independence Day, and Christmas are 3.25 days if the holiday falls on Friday through Monday, 4.25 days if on Tuesday or Thursday, and 1.25 days if on Wednesday.
(2) Number in parentheses refers to the number of whole days in the holiday period.
(3) The highest blood alcohol concentration (BAC) among drivers or motorcycle riders involved in the crash was 0.08 grams per deciliter (g/dL) or higher (the legal definition of drunk driving).

NA=Data not available.

Source: National Safety Council based on National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data.

 

 

MOTOR VEHICLE CRASH DEATHS BY MONTH, 2012

Month Deaths Percent of total Rank
January 2,491 7% 11
February 2,325 7 12
March 2,688 8 9
April 2,639 8 10
May 2,922 9 5
June 3,022 9 3
July 3,126 9 1
August 3,073 9 2
September 2,928 9 4
October 2,849 8 6
November 2,798 8 7
December 2,700 8 8
Total 33,561 100%  

Source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, based on an analysis of data from the U.S. Department of Transportation's Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS).

 

DISTRACTED DRIVING

Activities that take drivers’ attention off the road, including talking or texting on cellphones, eating, conversing with passengers and other distractions, are a major safety threat. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gauges distracted driving by collecting data on “distraction-affected crashes,” which focuses on distractions that are most likely to affect crash involvement such as dialing a cellphone or texting and being distracted by another person or an outside event. In 2012, 3,328 people were killed in distraction-affected crashes and 421,000 people were injured. In 2012, there were 3,050 distraction-affected fatal crashes, about the same as the 3,047 that occurred in 2011. The 3,050 distraction-affected fatal crashes in 2012 accounted for 10 percent of all fatal crashes in the nation, 18 percent of injury crashes and 16 percent of all motor vehicle crashes.

However, texting bans may not reduce crash rates, according to a Highway Loss Data Institute study of collision claims patterns in California, Louisiana, Minnesota and Washington before and after texting bans went into effect. Collisions went up slightly in all the states, except Washington, where the change was statistically insignificant.

Teen girls are twice as likely as teen boys to use cell phones and other electronic devices while driving, according to a March, 2012 study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

 

FATAL CRASHES AFFECTED BY DISTRACTED DRIVERS, 2013

  Crashes Drivers Fatalities
Total fatal crashes 30,057 44,574 32,719
Distracted-affected fatal crashes      
Number 2,910 2,959 3,154
Percent of total fatal crashes 10% 7% 10%
Cellphone in use in distracted-affected fatal crashes      
Number 411 427 445
Percent of fatal distracted-affected crashes 14% 14% 14%

Source: U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

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  • Cellphone use was a factor in 1 percent of the 30,800 fatal crashes reported in 2012.
  • Distraction was a factor in 10 percent of fatal crashes reported in 2012.

PEDESTRIAN ACCIDENTS

Pedestrians struck by cars are most often hit while in the crosswalk with the signal on their side, according to an analysis of pedestrian injuries treated at Bellevue Hospital Center in New York City. About 8 percent of the injured pedestrians were hurt while using an electronic device, according to the study. The study, which is highlighted in an April 2013 New York Times article, also looked at bicycle injuries. The study was published in the Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery. In 2010, 4,280 pedestrians died.

In 2012, 4,743 pedestrians died in traffic crashes, according to the U.S Department of Transportation. In 2012, pedestrian deaths accounted for 14 percent of all traffic fatalities. In addition, 76,000 pedestrians were injured in traffic crashes in 2012, accounting for 3 percent of all the people injured in traffic crashes. On average, a pedestrian is killed in a motor vehicle crash every 106 minutes, and one is injured every 7 minutes.

In 2012, alcohol involvement—either for the driver or the pedestrian—was reported in 48 percent of the traffic crashes that resulted in pedestrian fatalities. Of the pedestrians involved, 34 percent had BAC levels of .08 percent or higher. Of the drivers involved in these fatal crashes, 14 percent had BAC levels of .08 percent or higher. In 6 percent of the crashes, both the driver and the pedestrian had BAC levels of .08 percent or higher.

In 2012, 40 percent, or 1,805 fatally injured pedestrians had been drinking, up from 1,744 in 2011.