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 as of 2013 there were 202 million airbag-equipped passenger vehicles on the road in the United States, including 199 million with dual air bags. The agency says that frontal airbags saved 2,396 lives of those age 13 and older in 2014. 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 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 age five and older, seatbelts saved an estimated 12,802 lives in 2014. In fatal crashes in 2014, about 80 percent of passenger vehicle occupants who were totally ejected from the vehicle were killed. NHTSA says that when used seat belts 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 2014 the lives of an estimated 252 children under the age of five were saved by restraints.
  • Motorcycle Helmets: NHTSA estimates that helmets saved the lives of 1,669 motorcyclists in 2014. If all motorcyclists had worn helmets, 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.
  • Electronic Stability Control: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) requires all vehicles manufactured after model year 2012 to have electronic stability control (ESC). All new passenger cars, light trucks, SUVs and vans must comply with the requirement. 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.
  • 2012, NHTSA estimated that about 70 million 2004-model year and newer passenger vehicles (passenger cars and light trucks and vans) were equipped with ESC.  This works out to 28 percent of the 246 million passenger vehicles on the road in 2012.
  • 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 in LTVs such as pickup trucks, SUVs and vans, 74 percent.
  • In June 2010 the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) released the findings of a study that found that ESC for passenger vehicles is one of the most effective technologies for the prevention of fatal crashes, especially rollovers. IIHS data show that it lowers the risk of a deadly crash by 33 percent and cuts the risk of a single-vehicle rollover by 73 percent. The IIHS examined 10 years of crash data from NHTSA.

 

MOTOR VEHICLE CRASHES

2015 Projection: According to a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) statistical projection of traffic fatalities for 2015, motor vehicle crash deaths increased 7.7 percent when compared with 2014. Crash deaths for 2015 were at the highest level since 2008. Vehicle miles traveled increased by about 3.5 percent at the same time, resulting in a fatality rate of 1.12 per 100 million vehicle miles traveled in 2015, up from 1.08 in 2014.

According to NHTSA, traffic fatalities fell 0.7 percent in 2014 to 32,675 people from 32,894 in 2013. In 2014 an estimated 2.3 million people were injured in motor vehicle crashes. 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 29,867 1,530,000 3,778,000 5,338,000
2012 31,006 1,634,000 3,950,000 5,615,000
2013 30,203 1,591,000 4,066,000 5,687,000
2014 29,989 1,648,000 4,387,000 6,064,000

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

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Traffic Deaths, 2006-2015

 

Year  Fatalities Annual percent
change
Fatality rate per
100 million vehicle
miles traveled
Fatality rate per
100,000 registered vehicles
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 32,894 -2.6 1.10 12.21
2014 32,675 -0.7 1.08 11.89
2015 (1) 35,200 7.7 1.12 NA

(1) Projected.

NA=Data not available.

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

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  • In 2014 (latest data available) about 2.3 million people were injured in motor vehicle crashes, basically
  • The injury rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled was 77 in 2014, the same rate as in 2013.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, vehicle occupants accounted for 68 percent of traffic deaths in 2014. 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, 2013-2014

 

  Number of deaths     Number of deaths  
State 2013 2014 Percent change State 2013 2014 Percent change
Alabama 853 820 -3.9% Montana 229 192 16.2%
Alaska 51 73 43.1 Nebraska 211 225 6.6
Arizona 849 770 -9.3 Nevada 266 290 9.0
Arkansas 498 466 -6.4 New Hampshire 135 95 -29.6
California 3,107 3,074 -1.1 New Jersey 542 556 2.6
Colorado 482 488 1.2 New Mexico 311 383 23.2
Connecticut 286 248 -13.3 New York 1,202 1,039 -13.6
Delaware 99 121 22.2 North Carolina 1,290 1,284 -0.5
D.C. 20 23 15.0 North Dakota 148 135 -8.8
Florida 2,403 2,494 3.8 Ohio 989 1006 1.7
Georgia 1,180 1,164 -1.4 Oklahoma 678 669 -1.3
Hawaii 102 95 -6.9 Oregon 313 357 14.1
Idaho 214 186 -13.1 Pennsylvania 1,210 1,195 -1.2
Illinois 991 924 -6.8 Rhode Island 65 52 -20.0
Indiana 784 746 -4.8 South Carolina 768 824 7.3
Iowa 317 321 1.3 South Dakota 135 136 0.7
Kansas 350 385 10.0 Tennessee 995 962 -3.3
Kentucky 638 672 5.3 Texas 3,389 3,538 4.4
Louisiana 703 737 4.8 Utah 220 256 16.4
Maine 144 131 -9.0 Vermont 69 44 -36.2
Maryland 465 442 -4.9 Virginia 740 703 -5.0
Massachusetts 351 328 -6.6 Washington 436 462 6.0
Michigan 947 901 -4.9 West Virginia 332 272 -18.1
Minnesota 387 361 -6.7 Wisconsin 543 507 -6.6
Mississippi 613 607 -1.0 Wyoming 87 150 72.4
Missouri 757 766 1.2 United States 32,894 32,675 -0.7%

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

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Drivers In Motor Vehicle Crashes By Age, 2014

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 11,649,902 5.5% 3,803 32.64 1,298,000 11,138
21 to 24 14,358,484 6.8 4,654 32.41 1,202,000 8,373
25 to 34 37,360,848 17.6 8,972 24.01 2,331,000 6,238
35 to 44 35,863,375 16.9 6,894 19.22 1,804,000 5,029
45 to 54 39,497,005 18.6 7,350 18.61 1,705,000 4,318
55 to 64 36,852,500 17.4 5,997 16.27 1,318,000 3,576
65 to 74 23,832,010 11.2 3,314 13.91 640,000 2,686
Over 74 14,616,177 6.9 2,641 18.07 363,000 2,486
Total 214,092,472 100.0% 44,583 (2) 20.82 10,773,000 (2) 5,032

(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, 2014

Source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

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Sex Of Drivers Involved In Crashes, 2005-2014 (1)

 

  Fatal crashes Injury crashes
  Male Female Male Female
Year Number Rate (2) Number Rate (2) Number Rate (2) Number Rate (2)
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
2014 32,572 30.76 11,258 10.41 1,659,000 1,567 1,351,000 1,249
  Property damage-only crashes Total crashes
  Male Female Male Female
Year Number Rate (2) Number Rate (2) Number Rate (2) Number Rate (2)
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
2014 4,383,000 4,139 3,335,000 3,082 6,075,000 5,736 4,697,000 4,342

(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, 2014

Behavior Number of drivers Percent
Driving too fast for conditions or in excess of posted speed limit 8,360 18.8%
Under the influence of alcohol, drugs or medication 5,492 12.3
Failure to keep in proper lane or running off road 3,770 8.5
Failure to yield right of way 3,094 6.9
Distracted (phone, talking, eating, object, etc.) 3,000 6.7
Operating vehicle in a careless manner 2,122 4.8
Overcorrecting/oversteering 1,814 4.1
Failure to obey traffic signs, signals or officer 1,796 4.0
Operating vehicle in erratic, reckless, or negligent manner 1,548 3.5
Swerving or avoiding due to wind, slippery surface, other
vehicle, object, nonmotorist in roadway, etc.
1,510 3.4
Drowsy, asleep, fatigued, ill, or blacked out 1,309 2.9
Vision obscured (rain, snow, glare, lights, buildings, trees, etc.) 1,241 2.8
Driving wrong way on one-way trafficway or on wrong side of road 879 2.0
Making improper turn 765 1.7
Other factors 5,212 11.7
None reported 13,885 31.1
Unknown 5,740 12.9
Total drivers (1) 44,583 100.0%

(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, 2014

 

  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 5,247 17.5% 438,000 26.6% 843,000 19.2% 1,286,000 21.2%
Rear end 1,966 6.6 522,000 31.7 1,442,000 32.9 1,966,000 32.4
Sideswipe 810 2.7 100,000 6.0 612,000 13.9 712,000 11.7
Head on 2,866 9.6 62,000 3.8 76,000 1.7 141,000 2.3
Other/unknown 123 0.4 9,000 0.6 92,000 2.1 102,000 1.7
     Total 11,012 36.7% 1,130,000 68.6% 3,066,000 69.9% 4,207,000 69.4%
Collision with fixed object                
Pole/post 1,282 4.3 51,000 3.1 134,000 3.0 186,000 3.1
Culvert/curb/ditch 2,435 8.1 61,000 3.7 126,000 2.9 190,000 3.1
Shrubbery/tree 2,347 7.8 37,000 2.3 68,000 1.5 107,000 1.8
Guard rail 872 2.9 28,000 1.7 76,000 1.7 106,000 1.7
Embankment 918 3.1 18,000 1.1 25,000 0.6 44,000 0.7
Bridge 201 0.7 4,000 0.2 10,000 0.2 14,000 0.2
Other/unknown 1,685 5.6 66,000 4.0 192,000 4.4 260,000 4.3
     Total 9,740 32.5% 266,000 16.1% 630,000 14.4% 906,000 14.9%
Collision with object, not fixed                
Parked motor vehicle 316 1.1 51,000 3.1 309,000 7.0 360,000 5.9
Animal 158 0.5 12,000 0.7 254,000 5.8 266,000 4.4
Pedestrian 4,519 15.1 58,000 3.5 3,000 0.1 65,000 1.1
Pedalcyclist 716 2.4 50,000 3.0 6,000 0.1 56,000 0.9
Train 124 0.4 (1) (1) 1,000 (1) 1,000 (1)
Other/unknown 367 1.2 12,000 0.7 65,000 1.5 77,000 1.3
     Total 6,200 20.7% 182,000 11.1% 637,000 14.4% 826,000 13.6%
Noncollision                
Rollover 2,664 8.9 64,000 3.9 36,000 0.8 102,000 1.7
Other/unknown 343 1.1 6,000 0.4 17,000 0.4 23,000 0.4
     Total 3,007 10.0 69,000 4.2 54,000 1.2 126,000 2.1
Total 29,989(2) 100.0% 1,648,000 100.0% 4,387,000 100.0% 6,064,000 100.0%

(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 2014, Thanksgiving Day was the holiday period with the most motor vehicle deaths (403), followed by Labor Day (362), Christmas Day (355), Independence Day (347), Memorial Day (337) and New Year’s Day (126). 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 2013, about 50 percent of fatal crashes occurred on Friday, Saturday or Sunday, according to NHTSA.

 

HOLIDAY DRIVING, 2010-2014

 

  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)
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) 45 378 (3) 38 405 (4) 41 351 (4) 35
2013 343 (4) 44 334 (3) 38 461 (4) 39 371 (3) 38 360 (4) 33 88 (1) 37
2014 126 (1) NA 337 (3) NA 347 (3) NA 362 (3) NA 403 (4) NA 355 (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.

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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 2014, 3,179 people were killed in distraction-affected crashes, and 431,000 people were injured. There were 2,955 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 2014.

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, 2014

  Crashes Drivers Fatalities
Total fatal crashes 29,989 44,583 32,675
Distracted-affected fatal crashes      
Number of distracted-affected fatal crashes 2,955 3,000 3,179
Percent of total fatal crashes 10% 7% 10%
Cellphone in use in distracted-affected
fatal crashes
   
Number of cellphone distracted-affected fatal crashes 385 398 404
Percent of fatal distracted-affected crashes 13% 13% 13%

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

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  • Distraction was a factor in 10 percent of fatal crashes reported in 2014.
  • Cellphone use was a factor in 13 percent of all fatal distracted-affected crashes, but in only 1 percent of the 29,989 fatal crashes reported in 2014.

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.