Fixed object crashes | 2005

About 20 percent of motor vehicle crash deaths result from a vehicle leaving the roadway and hitting a fixed object such as a tree or utility pole alongside the road. Almost all such crashes involve only one vehicle. Fixed object crashes occur in both urban and rural areas but are mostly a problem on rural roads. Sixteen percent of fixed object crashes involve a vehicle that rolls over, and 18 percent involve occupant ejection. Trees are by far the most common objects struck, accounting for half of all fixed object crashes.

Alcohol is a frequent contributing factor in these crashes. Motorists also run off the road because of excessive speed, falling asleep, or inattention. Efforts to reduce these driver errors are only somewhat effective, so it's important to shield or remove fixed objects or avoid putting them along roads in the first place, especially roads where vehicles are more likely to leave the pavement.

The information in this fact sheet is based on fatal crashes in which the most harmful event coded in the Fatality Analysis Reporting System was a collision with a fixed object, regardless of whether the first harmful event also was a collision with a fixed object, or was instead another type of crash, such as a collision between two motor vehicles, that in turn led to a collision with a fixed object.

The following facts are based on analysis of data from the U.S. Department of Transportation's Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS).

Alcohol

Forty-four percent of drivers killed in fixed object crashes in 2005 had blood alcohol concentrations (BACs) at or above 0.08 percent. By comparison 27 percent of drivers in other types of fatal crashes had BACs this high. The proportion of drivers killed in fixed object crashes with BACs at or above 0.08 percent declined substantially since 1982, when 66 percent of these drivers had BACs this high.

Percent of fatally injured drivers with BACs ≥ 0.08 percent by crash type, 1982-2005

Estimated number and percent of fatally injured drivers with BACs ≥ 0.08 percent, 1982-2005
Year Fixed object crashes Other All Crashes
Deaths Estimated deaths with BACs ≥ 0.08 Deaths Estimated deaths with BACs ≥ 0.08 Deaths Estimated deaths with BACs ≥ 0.08
Num Num % Num Num % Num Num %
1982 6,089 3,991 66 18,601 8,148 44 24,690 12,139 49
1983 6,074 3,925 65 18,064 7,618 42 24,138 11,543 48
1984 6,496 4,027 62 19,093 7,472 39 25,589 11,499 45
1985 6,927 4,078 59 18,410 6,608 36 25,337 10,685 42
1986 7,121 4,209 59 19,509 7,201 37 26,630 11,409 43
1987 6,974 3,965 57 19,859 7,093 36 26,833 11,058 41
1988 7,239 3,987 55 20,014 7,116 36 27,253 11,103 41
1989 6,962 3,926 56 19,427 6,711 35 26,389 10,637 40
1990 6,786 3,897 57 18,964 6,498 34 25,750 10,395 40
1991 6,398 3,538 55 17,532 5,947 34 23,930 9,485 40
1992 5,979 3,151 53 16,605 5,301 32 22,584 8,452 37
1993 5,957 3,079 52 17,185 5,243 31 23,142 8,322 36
1994 5,943 2,885 49 17,748 5,028 28 23,691 7,913 33
1995 6,197 3,018 49 18,193 5,289 29 24,390 8,307 34
1996 6,077 2,917 48 18,457 5,258 28 24,534 8,175 33
1997 6,081 2,881 47 18,586 4,962 27 24,667 7,843 32
1998 6,280 2,964 47 18,463 4,870 26 24,743 7,834 32
1999 6,249 2,908 47 19,008 5,010 26 25,257 7,918 31
2000 6,595 3,080 47 18,972 5,086 27 25,567 8,166 32
2001 6,685 3,050 46 19,184 5,203 27 25,869 8,252 32
2002 7,218 3,292 46 19,441 5,224 27 26,659 8,515 32
2003 7,083 3,163 45 19,696 5,191 26 26,779 8,354 31
2004 6,906 3,043 44 19,965 5,112 26 26,871 8,155 30
2005 6,944 3,041 44 20,528 5,474 27 27,472 8,515 31

Trends

A total of 9,057 people died in fixed object crashes in 2005, 1 percent fewer than in 2004 and 14 percent fewer than in 1979. The proportion of motor vehicle crash deaths involving fixed objects has remained between 19 and 22 percent since 1979.

Deaths in fixed object crashes as a percent of all motor vehicle deaths, 1979-2005
Year Fixed object crash deaths Other deaths All motor vehicle deaths
Num % Num % Num
1979 10,550 21 40,543 79 51,093
1980 10,968 21 40,123 79 51,091
1981 9,464 19 39,837 81 49,301
1982 8,417 19 35,528 81 43,945
1983 8,333 20 34,256 80 42,589
1984 8,796 20 35,461 80 44,257
1985 9,319 21 34,506 79 43,825
1986 9,851 21 36,236 79 46,087
1987 9,662 21 36,728 79 46,390
1988 9,865 21 37,222 79 47,087
1989 9,537 21 36,045 79 45,582
1990 9,355 21 35,244 79 44,599
1991 8,894 21 32,614 79 41,508
1992 8,221 21 31,029 79 39,250
1993 8,256 21 31,894 79 40,150
1994 8,142 20 32,574 80 40,716
1995 8,524 20 33,293 80 41,817
1996 8,442 20 33,623 80 42,065
1997 8,381 20 33,632 80 42,013
1998 8,401 20 33,100 80 41,501
1999 8,431 20 33,286 80 41,717
2000 8,899 21 33,046 79 41,945
2001 9,011 21 33,185 79 42,196
2002 9,580 22 33,425 78 43,005
2003 9,433 22 33,451 78 42,884
2004 9,123 21 33,713 79 42,836
2005 9,057 21 34,386 79 43,443

Trees are the most common fixed object struck. Fifty percent of deaths in fixed object crashes in 2005 involved a vehicle striking a tree. Utility poles and embankments were the next most common objects struck, accounting for 14 and 6 percent of deaths, respectively.

Percent distribution of fixed object crash deaths by object struck, 2005

Deaths in fixed object crashes by object struck, 2005
Object struck Num %
Tree 4,573 50
Utility pole 1,223 14
Embankment 567 6
Guardrail 451 5
Other 364 4
Ditch 261 3
Highway sign support 226 2
Culvert 220 2
Concrete 214 2
Bridge pier/abutment 171 2
Wall 164 2
Fence 163 2
Building 158 2
Light support 131 2
Curb 91 1
Bridge rail 80 1
Total 9,057 100

Age and gender

Forty-two percent of drivers killed in fixed object crashes in 2005 were males younger than 35. Overall males accounted for 81 percent of all drivers killed in fixed object crashes in 2005.

Driver deaths in fixed object crashes by age and gender, 2005
Age Male Female Total
Num % Num % Num %
<16 31 <1 5 <1 36 1
16-19 627 9 186 3 813 12
20-24 1,070 15 161 2 1,231 18
25-29 661 10 115 2 776 11
30-34 534 8 85 1 619 9
35-39 469 7 114 2 583 8
40-44 448 6 118 2 566 8
45-49 427 6 117 2 544 8
50-54 362 5 75 1 437 6
55-59 293 4 68 1 361 5
60-64 224 3 51 1 275 4
65-69 159 2 51 1 210 3
≥ 70 343 5 142 2 485 7
Total* 5,655 81 1,289 19 6,944 100
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Crash types

Ninety-five percent of fixed object crash deaths in 2005 occurred in single-vehicle crashes.

Deaths in fixed object crashes by crash type, 2005
Crash type Deaths %
Single-vehicle crashes 8,612 95
Multiple-vehicle crashes 445 5
All crashes 9,057 100

Sixteen percent of deaths in fixed object crashes in 2005 involved vehicles rolling over.

Deaths in fixed object crashes by rollover occurrence and object struck, 2005
Object struck Rollover No rollover All crashes
Num % Num % Num
Boulder 22 45 27 55 49
Culvert 56 25 164 75 220
Embankment 143 25 424 75 567
Ditch 59 23 202 77 261
Utility Pole 239 20 984 80 1,223
Bridge rail 15 19 65 81 80
Concrete 35 16 179 84 214
Tree 693 15 3,880 85 4,573
Bridge pier 26 15 145 85 171
Wall 23 14 141 86 164
Fence 23 14 140 86 163
Guardrail 56 12 395 88 451
Light support 13 10 118 90 131
Other 81 10 709 90 790
Total 1,484 16 7,573 84 9,057

Eighteen percent of deaths in fixed object crashes in 2005 involved occupant ejection; 13 percent of the occupants killed were fully ejected, and 5 percent were partially ejected.

Deaths in fixed object crashes by occupant ejection, 2005
Ejection Deaths %
Not ejected 7,412 82
Fully ejected 1,167 13
Partially ejected 450 5
Total* 9,057 100
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Sixty-two percent of deaths in fixed object crashes in 2005 occurred in frontal impacts.

Deaths in fixed object crashes by principal point of impact, 2005
Principal point of impact Deaths %
Frontal impact 5,640 62
Side impact — left side 1,302 14
Side impact — light side 1,167 13
Top or undercarriage 410 5
Rear impact 240 3
Unknown 3 <1
Total* 9,057 100
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Road types

Fifteen percent of deaths in fixed object crashes in 2005 occurred on interstates and freeways, 45 percent occurred on other major roads and 35 percent occurred on minor roads.

Deaths in fixed object crashes by road type, 2005
Road type Deaths %
Interstates and freeways 1,336 15
Other major roads 4,077 45
Minor roads 3,179 35
All road types* 9,057 100
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Fifty-five percent of deaths in fixed object crashes in 2005 occurred on rural roads.

Deaths in fixed object crashes by road classification, 2005
Road classification Deaths %
Rural 4,985 55
Urban 3,661 40
Total* 9,057 100
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Twelve percent of deaths in fixed object crashes in 2005 occurred at junctions including intersections, interchanges, rail grade crossings, and junctions of streets with driveways and alleys. In urban areas the proportion of deaths in fixed object crashes that occurred at junctions was 20 percent, compared with 7 percent in rural areas.

Deaths in fixed object crashes by road classification and relation to junction, 2005
  Urban Rural Total*
Num % Num % Num %
Non-junction 2,928 80 4,623 93 7,939 88
Junction 732 20 359 7 1,114 12
Total* 3,661 100 4,985 100 9,057 100
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Forty-five percent of deaths in fixed object crashes in 2005 occurred on roads with speed limits 55 mph or higher.

Deaths in fixed object crashes by speed limit, 2005
Speed limit Deaths %
No limit 37 <1
<35 mph 1,160 13
35-40 mph 1,845 20
45-50 mph 1,690 19
55+ mph 4,099 45
Total* 9,057 100
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

References