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
YearFixed object crashesOtherAll Crashes
DeathsEstimated deaths with BACs ≥ 0.08DeathsEstimated deaths with BACs ≥ 0.08DeathsEstimated deaths with BACs ≥ 0.08
NumNum%NumNum%NumNum%
19826,0893,9916618,6018,1484424,69012,13949
19836,0743,9256518,0647,6184224,13811,54348
19846,4964,0276219,0937,4723925,58911,49945
19856,9274,0785918,4106,6083625,33710,68542
19867,1214,2095919,5097,2013726,63011,40943
19876,9743,9655719,8597,0933626,83311,05841
19887,2393,9875520,0147,1163627,25311,10341
19896,9623,9265619,4276,7113526,38910,63740
19906,7863,8975718,9646,4983425,75010,39540
19916,3983,5385517,5325,9473423,9309,48540
19925,9793,1515316,6055,3013222,5848,45237
19935,9573,0795217,1855,2433123,1428,32236
19945,9432,8854917,7485,0282823,6917,91333
19956,1973,0184918,1935,2892924,3908,30734
19966,0772,9174818,4575,2582824,5348,17533
19976,0812,8814718,5864,9622724,6677,84332
19986,2802,9644718,4634,8702624,7437,83432
19996,2492,9084719,0085,0102625,2577,91831
20006,5953,0804718,9725,0862725,5678,16632
20016,6853,0504619,1845,2032725,8698,25232
20027,2183,2924619,4415,2242726,6598,51532
20037,0833,1634519,6965,1912626,7798,35431
20046,9063,0434419,9655,1122626,8718,15530
20056,9443,0414420,5285,4742727,4728,51531

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
YearFixed object crash deathsOther deathsAll motor vehicle deaths
Num%Num%Num
197910,5502140,5437951,093
198010,9682140,1237951,091
19819,4641939,8378149,301
19828,4171935,5288143,945
19838,3332034,2568042,589
19848,7962035,4618044,257
19859,3192134,5067943,825
19869,8512136,2367946,087
19879,6622136,7287946,390
19889,8652137,2227947,087
19899,5372136,0457945,582
19909,3552135,2447944,599
19918,8942132,6147941,508
19928,2212131,0297939,250
19938,2562131,8947940,150
19948,1422032,5748040,716
19958,5242033,2938041,817
19968,4422033,6238042,065
19978,3812033,6328042,013
19988,4012033,1008041,501
19998,4312033,2868041,717
20008,8992133,0467941,945
20019,0112133,1857942,196
20029,5802233,4257843,005
20039,4332233,4517842,884
20049,1232133,7137942,836
20059,0572134,3867943,443

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 struckNum%
Tree4,57350
Utility pole1,22314
Embankment5676
Guardrail4515
Other3644
Ditch2613
Highway sign support2262
Culvert2202
Concrete2142
Bridge pier/abutment1712
Wall1642
Fence1632
Building1582
Light support1312
Curb911
Bridge rail801
Total9,057100

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
AgeMaleFemaleTotal
Num%Num%Num%
<1631<15<1361
16-196279186381312
20-241,0701516121,23118
25-2966110115277611
30-3453488516199
35-39469711425838
40-44448611825668
45-49427611725448
50-5436257514376
55-5929346813615
60-6422435112754
65-6915925112103
≥ 70343514224857
Total*5,655811,289196,944100
*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 typeDeaths%
Single-vehicle crashes8,61295
Multiple-vehicle crashes4455
All crashes9,057100

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 struckRolloverNo rolloverAll crashes
Num%Num%Num
Boulder2245275549
Culvert562516475220
Embankment1432542475567
Ditch592320277261
Utility Pole23920984801,223
Bridge rail1519658180
Concrete351617984214
Tree693153,880854,573
Bridge pier261514585171
Wall231414186164
Fence231414086163
Guardrail561239588451
Light support131011890131
Other811070990790
Total1,484167,573849,057

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
EjectionDeaths%
Not ejected7,41282
Fully ejected1,16713
Partially ejected4505
Total*9,057100
*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 impactDeaths%
Frontal impact5,64062
Side impact — left side1,30214
Side impact — light side1,16713
Top or undercarriage4105
Rear impact2403
Unknown3<1
Total*9,057100
*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 typeDeaths%
Interstates and freeways1,33615
Other major roads4,07745
Minor roads3,17935
All road types*9,057100
*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 classificationDeaths%
Rural4,98555
Urban3,66140
Total*9,057100
*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
 UrbanRuralTotal*
Num%Num%Num%
Non-junction2,928804,623937,93988
Junction7322035971,11412
Total*3,6611004,9851009,057100
*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 limitDeaths%
No limit37<1
<35 mph1,16013
35-40 mph1,84520
45-50 mph1,69019
55+ mph4,09945
Total*9,057100
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

References