Highway Safety

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), in 2012, 33,561 people died in motor vehicle crashes, up 3.3 percent from 32,479 in 2011. 2012 marked the first year-to-year increase in motor vehicle crash fatalities since 2005. Vehicle miles traveled in 2012 increased 0.3 percent, and the fatality rate per 100 million miles traveled is estimated to have increased to 1.14 fatalities, compared with 1.10 fatalities in 2011. NHTSA property damage figures shown below are based on accidents reported to the police and do not include fender bender accidents.

A statistical projection released by 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) shows that motor vehicle crash fatalities for the first half of 2013 fell about 4.2 percent from a year ago. Crash fatalities have been steadily decreasing since a significant increase was recorded in the first quarter of 2012.

 

MOTOR VEHICLE CRASHES, 2003-2012

Year Fatal Injury Property damage only Total crashes
2003 38,477 1,925,000 4,365,000 6,328,000
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 30,800 1,634,000 3,950,000 5,615,000

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

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TRAFFIC DEATHS, 2003-2012

Year  Fatalities Annual percent change Fatality rate per
100 million vehicle miles traveled
Fatality rate per
100,000 registered vehicles
2003 42,884 -0.3% 1.48 18.59
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 12.57
2012 33,561 3.3 1.14 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 rose by 6.3 percent from 2.22 million in 2011 to 2.36 million in 2012. This was the first statistically significant increase in injuries since 1995.
  • The injury rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled was 80 in 2013, up from 75 in the three years ending in 2011.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, vehicle occupants accounted for 67 percent of traffic deaths in 2012. Motorcycle riders accounted for 15 percent. Pedestrians accounted for another 14 percent; pedalcyclists and other nonoccupants accounted for the remainder.

 

MOTOR VEHICLE TRAFFIC DEATHS BY STATE, 2011-2012

  Number of deaths    
State 2011 2012 Percent change
Alabama 895 865 -3.4%
Alaska 72 59 -18.0
Arizona 826 825 -0.1
Arkansas 551 552 0.2
California 2,816 2,857 1.5
Colorado 447 472 5.6
Connecticut 221 236 6.8
Delaware 99 114 15.0
D.C. 27 15 -44.0
Florida 2,400 2,424 1.0
Georgia 1,226 1,192 -2.8
Hawaii 100 126 26.0
Idaho 167 184 10.0
Illinois 918 956 4.1
Indiana 751 779 3.7
Iowa 360 365 1.4
Kansas 386 405 4.9
Kentucky 720 746 3.6
Louisiana 680 722 6.2
Maine 136 164 21.0
Maryland 485 505 4.1
Massachusetts 374 349 -6.7
Michigan 889 938 5.5
Minnesota 368 395 7.3
Mississippi 630 582 -7.6
Missouri 786 826 5.1
Montana 209 205 -1.9
Nebraska 181 212 17.0
Nevada 246 258 4.9
New Hampshire 90 108 20.0
New Jersey 627 589 -6.1
New Mexico 350 365 4.3
New York 1,171 1,168 -0.3
North Carolina 1,230 1,292 5.0
North Dakota 148 170 15.0
Ohio 1,017 1,123 10.0
Oklahoma 696 708 1.7
Oregon 331 336 1.5
Pennsylvania 1,286 1,310 1.9
Rhode Island 66 64 -3.0
South Carolina 828 863 4.2
South Dakota 111 133 20.0
Tennessee 937 1,014 8.2
Texas 3,054 3,398 11.0
Utah 243 217 -11.0
Vermont 55 77 40.0
Virginia 764 777 1.7
Washington 454 444 -2.2
West Virginia 338 339 0.3
Wisconsin 582 615 5.7
Wyoming 135 123 -8.9
United States 32,479 33,561 3.3%

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

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DRIVERS IN MOTOR VEHICLE CRASHES BY AGE, 2011

Age group Number of licensed drivers Percent of total Drivers in fatal crashes Involvement rate (1) Drivers in all crashes Involvement rate (1)
Under 16 361,046 0.2% 115 NA 16,000 NA
16 to 20 12,280,859 5.8 4,292 34.95 1,219,000 9,923
21 to 24 14,265,636 6.7 4,465 31.30 1,050,000 7,361
25 to 34 36,892,373 17.4 8,517 23.09 1,944,000 5,269
35 to 44 36,938,903 17.4 7,058 19.11 1,734,000 4,695
45 to 54 41,172,350 19.4 7,493 18.20 1,501,000 3,645
55 to 64 35,397,534 16.7 5,542 15.66 1,106,000 3,123
65 to 74 20,511,896 9.7 2,947 14.37 506,000 2,465
Over 74 14,054,051 6.6 2,522 17.95 314,000 2,234
Total 211,874,649 100.0% 43,668 (2) 20.61 9,390,000 (2) 4,432

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

NA=Not applicable.

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, 2012

Source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

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SEX OF DRIVERS INVOLVED IN CRASHES, 2002-2011 (1)

  Fatal crashes Injury crashes
  Male Female Male Female
Year Number Rate (2) Number Rate (2) Number Rate (2) Number Rate (2)
2002 41,995 43.03 14,876 15.34 2,000,043 2,049 1,481,476 1,528
2003 42,177 42.95 15,106 15.43 1,989,702 2,026 1,524,785 1,557
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
 
  Property damage-only crashes Total crashes
  Male Female Male Female
Year Number Rate (2) Number Rate (2) Number Rate (2) Number Rate (2)
2002 4,436,198 4,545 2,999,111 3,093 6,478,236 6,638 4,495,463 4,636
2003 4,527,515 4,610 3,019,961 3,084 6,559,394 6,679 4,559,852 4,657
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

(1) Drivers age 16 and over, 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, 2011

Behavior   Number Percent
Driving too fast for conditions or in excess of posted speed limit 9,080 20.8%
Under the influence of alcohol, drugs or medication 6,042 13.8
Failure to keep in proper lane 4,039 9.2
Failure to yield right of way 3,148 7.2
Distracted (phone, talking, eating, etc.) 3,085 7.1
Operating vehicle in erratic, reckless, careless or negligent manner 2,604 6.0
Overcorrecting/oversteering 2,080 4.8
Failure to obey traffic signs, signals or officer 1,826 4.2
Swerving or avoiding due to wind, slippery surface, other
vehicle, object, nonmotorist in roadway, etc.
1,741 4.0
Vision obscured (rain, snow, glare, lights, buildings, trees, etc.) 1,301 3.0
Drowsy, asleep, fatigued, ill, or blacked out 1,152 2.6
Driving wrong way in one-way traffic or on wrong side of road 1,082 2.5
Making improper turn 1,015 2.3
Other factors 6,562 15.0
Unknown 4,569 10.5
None reported 13,012 29.8
Total drivers (1) 43,668 100.0%

(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, 2011

  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
Collision with moving motor vehicle                
Angle 5,281 17.7% 413,000 27.0% 793,000 21.0% 1,212,000 22.7%
Rear end 1,806 6.1 475,000 31.0 1,245,000 32.9 1,721,000 32.2
Sideswipe 768 2.6 71,000 4.7 450,000 11.9 522,000 9.8
Head on 2,731 9.2 57,000 3.7 53,000 1.4 112,000 2.1
Other/Unknown 110 0.4 6,000 0.4 60,000 1.6 66,000 1.2
     Total 10,696 35.9% 1,022,000 66.8% 2,601,000 68.8% 3,634,000 68.1%
Collision with fixed object                
Pole/post 1,354 4.6 49,000 3.2 113,000 3.0 164,000 3.1
Culvert/curb/ditch 2,406 8.1 52,000 3.4 100,000 2.6 154,000 2.9
Shrubbery/tree 2,385 8.0 41,000 2.7 59,000 1.6 102,000 1.9
Guard rail 893 3.0 28,000 1.8 68,000 1.8 96,000 1.8
Embankment 1,049 3.5 20,000 1.3 26,000 0.7 48,000 0.9
Bridge 219 0.7 5,000 0.3 11,000 0.3 17,000 0.3
Other/unknown 1,656 5.6 70,000 4.6 167,000 4.4 239,000 4.5
     Total 9,962 33.5% 265,000 17.3% 545,000 14.4% 820,000 15.4%
Collision with object, not fixed                
Parked motor vehicle 304 1.0 36,000 2.3 284,000 7.5 320,000 6.0
Animal 183 0.6 14,000 0.9 242,000 6.4 256,000 4.8
Pedestrian 4,095 13.8 63,000 4.1 2,000 0.1 69,000 1.3
Pedalcyclist 669 2.2 47,000 3.1 3,000 0.1 51,000 1.0
Train 116 0.4 (1) (2) 1,000 (2) 1,000 0.0
Other/Unknown 354 1.2 11,000 0.7 49,000 1.3 61,000 1.1
     Total 5,721 19.2% 171,000 11.2% 582,000 15.4% 759,000 14.2%
Noncollision                
Rollover 2,955 9.9 65,000 4.2 35,000 0.9 102,000 1.9
Other/unknown 395 1.3 75,000 0.4 15,000 0.4 22,000 0.4
     Total 3,350 11.3% 72,000 4.7% 50,000 1.3% 125,000 2.3%
Total 28,757 (3) 100.0% 1,530,000 100.0% 3,778,000 100.0% 5,338,000 100.0%

(1) Less than 0.05 percent.
(2) Less than 500 crashes.
(3) Includes 36 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, 2012

  Crashes Drivers Fatalities
Total fatal crashes 30,800 45,337 33,561
Distracted-affected (D-A) fatal crashes      
Number 3,050 3,119 3,328
Percent of total fatal crashes 10% 7% 10%
Cellphone in use in D-A fatal crashes      
Number 378 394 415
Percent of fatal D-A crashes 12% 13% 12%

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.