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. The insurance industry 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 frontal airbags saved 2,388 lives of those age 13 and older in 2013. Airbags, combined with seatbelts, are the most effective safety protection available for passenger vehicles. The fatality-reducing effectiveness for frontal airbags is 14 percent when no seatbelt is used and 11 percent when a seatbelt is used in conjunction with airbags.
  • Seatbelts: Among passenger vehicle occupants over the age of 4, seatbelts saved an estimated 12,584 lives in 2013 and about 62,500 during the five-year period from 2009 to 2013. In fatal crashes in 2013, 79 percent of passenger vehicle occupants who were totally ejected from the vehicle were killed. NHTSA says that when used seatbelts reduce the risk of fatal injury to front seat passenger car occupants by 45 percent and the risk of moderate-to-critical injury by 50 percent. For light truck occupants, the risk is reduced by 60 percent and 65 percent, respectively.
  • Child Safety Seats: NHTSA says that in 2013 the lives of an estimated 263 children under the age of 5 were saved by restraints.
  • Motorcycle Helmets: NHTSA estimates that helmets saved the lives of 1,630 motorcyclists in 2013. If all motorcyclists had worn helmets, an additional 715 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.
  • Electronic Stability Control: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) requires all vehicles manufactured after model year 2012 to have electronic stability control (ESC). ESC was designed to help prevent rollovers and other types of crashes by controlling brakes and engine power.
  • NHTSA says ESC saved an estimated 446 passenger car occupant lives in 2012 and 698 lives among light truck and van occupants for a total of 1,144 lives saved among passenger vehicle occupants. The 2012 total for lives saved was 33.2 percent higher than the 859 lives saved in 2011, and almost double the 598 lives saved in 2009. Over the five years from 2008 to 2012, NHTSA says the ESC has saved a total of almost 4,000 lives.
  • In May 2014 NHTSA released a report on updated estimates of fatality reduction by electronic stability control (ESC), which found that in single-vehicle crashes of passenger cars, where the first harmful event was a rollover, ESC decreased rollovers by 59.5 percent, relative to a control group. The reduction in rollovers was even more dramatic among light trucks and vans, 74 percent.

MOTOR VEHICLE CRASHES

The National Safety Council estimates that traffic fatalities rose 14 percent in the first six months of 2015 compared with the same period in 2014. Serious injuries rose 30 percent. Nearly 19,000 people died in traffic crashes in the United States in the first six months of 2015, and 2.2 million people were seriously injured. If it continued, the rate of fatalities would make 2015 the most deadly year for drivers since 2007. Costs are also on the rise. At $152 billion, costs (wage and productivity losses, medical and administrative expenses, employer costs and property damage) in 2015 are 24 percent higher than in 2014.The Insurance Information Institute noted that lower gas prices most likely boosted miles driven in the United States to record highs in 2015.

First Half 2015: A statistical projection of traffic fatalities for the first half of 2015 released by NHTSA shows an increase of about 8.1 percent when compared with the first half of 2014. Vehicle miles traveled increased by about 3.5 percent at the same time, resulting in a fatality rate of 1.06 per 100 million vehicle miles traveled in the first half of 2015, up from 1.01 in the first half of 2014.

According to a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) report traffic fatalities fell 0.1 percent in 2014 to 32,675 people from 32,719 in 2013. In 2014 an estimated 2.3 million people were injured in motor vehicle crashes, according to a NHTSA report. About 90 people died each day in motor vehicle crashes in 2014, and 6,300 people were injured.

 

MOTOR VEHICLE CRASHES, 2005-2014

Year Fatal Injury Property damage only Total crashes
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
2014 NA NA 4,400,000 6,100,000

NA=Data not available.

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

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TRAFFIC DEATHS, 2005-2014

 

Year Fatalities Annual
percent
change
Fatality rate
per 100 million
vehicle miles
traveled
Fatality rate
per 100,000
registered
vehicles
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 12.72
2013 32,719 -3.1 1.09 12.26
2014 32,675 -0.1 1.07 NA

NA=Data not available.

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

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  • In 2014 about 2.3 million were injured in motor vehicle crashes, basically unchanged from 2013.
  • 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, 2013

Age group Number of
licensed drivers
Percent of
total
Drivers in fatal
crashes
Involvement
rate (1)
Drivers in all
crashes
Involvement
rate (1)
16 to 20 12,214,248 5.8% 3,883 31.79 1,259,000 10,311
21 to 24 14,373,838 6.8 4,609 32.07 1,144,000 7,957
25 to 34 36,697,904 17.3 8,762 23.88 2,153,000 5,867
35 to 44 36,018,792 17.0 7,183 19.94 1,663,000 4,617
45 to 54 39,907,125 18.8 7,343 18.40 1,640,000 4,110
55 to 64 36,055,252 17.0 5,911 16.39 1,202,000 3,333
65 to 74 22,534,477 10.6 3,357 14.90 605,000 2,683
Over 74 14,295,739 6.7 2,567 17.96 346,000 2,420
Total 212,159,728 (2) 100.0% 44,574 (2) 21.01 1,043,000 (2) 4,733

(1) Per 100,000 licensed drivers.
(2) Includes drivers under the age of 16 and 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.) 1,493 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 100 percent because 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 2013 August had the most fatal crashes, February had the least, according to data from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
  • 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, 2009-2013

 

  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)
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) 37 373 (3) 37 375 (4) 32 256 (3) 36
2012 348 (3) 39 367 (3) 44 157 (1) 44 378 (3) 38 405 (4) 42 351 (4) 37
2013 343 (4) NA 334 (3) NA 461 (4) NA 371 (3) NA 360 (4) NA 88 (1) 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.

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MOTOR VEHICLE CRASH DEATHS BY MONTH, 2013

Month Deaths Percent of total Rank
January 2,430 7% 11
February 2,100 6 12
March 2,598 8 9
April 2,501 8 10
May 2,753 8 7
June 2,912 9 4
July 2,871 9 5
August 3,136 10 1
September 2,964 9 3
October 2,987 9 2
November 2,841 9 6
December 2,626 8 8
Total 32,719 100%  

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).

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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 focus 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 2013, 3,154 people were killed in distraction-affected crashes, and 424,000 people were injured. There were 2,910 distraction-affected fatal crashes, accounting for 10 percent of all fatal crashes in the nation, 18 percent of injury crashes and 16 percent of all motor vehicle crashes in 2013.

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 30,057 fatal crashes reported in 2013.
  • Distraction was a factor in 10 percent of fatal crashes reported in 2013.

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.

NHTSA reported that 4,735 pedestrians were killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2013, down 1.7 percent from 4,818 pedestrians in 2012. An additional 66,000 pedestrians were injured in motor vehicle crashes, down 13.2 percent from 76,000 in 2012. On average, a pedestrian is killed in a motor vehicle crash every 120 minutes, and one is injured every eight minutes.

In 2013, 39 percent, or 1,769 fatally injured pedestrians, had a blood-alcohol content (BAC) of 0.1 percent or higher. (Fatal crashes are considered alcohol-impaired driving crashes if they involve a driver with a blood-alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 percent or higher.)

In 2013 alcohol involvement—either for the driver or the pedestrian—was reported in 49 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, 15 percent had BAC levels of .08 percent or higher.