Fixed object crashes | 2006

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.

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).

Trends

A total of 9,136 people died in fixed object crashes in 2006, 1 percent more than in 2005 and 13 percent fewer than in 1979. The proportion of motor vehicle crash deaths involving collisions with fixed objects has remained between 19 and 22 percent since 1979.

Deaths in fixed object crashes as a percent of all motor vehicle deaths, 1979-2006
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 9,062 21 34,448 79 43,510
2006 9,136 21 33,506 79 42,642

Trees are the most common fixed object struck. Fifty percent of deaths in fixed object crashes in 2006 involved a vehicle striking a tree. Utility poles and traffic barriers were the next most common objects struck, accounting for 12 and 9 percent of deaths, respectively.

Percent distribution of fixed object crash deaths by object struck, 2006

Deaths in fixed object crashes by object struck, 2006
Object struck Num %
Tree 4,552 50
Utility pole 1,142 12
Traffic barriers 805 9
Embankment 538 6
Ditch 290 3
Highway sign support 275 3
Culvert 248 3
Fence 183 2
Bridge pier 164 2
Wall 161 2
Building 143 2
Light support 142 2
Other 493 5
Total 9,136 100

Alcohol

Forty-four percent of drivers killed in fixed object crashes in 2006 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 number of deaths in fixed object crashes involving drivers with BACs at or above 0.08 percent declined from a high of 4,209 in 1986 to 3,154 in 2006, a reduction of 25 percent.

Percent of fatally injured drivers with BACs ≥ 0.08 percent by crash type, 1982-2006

Estimated number and percent of fatally injured drivers with BACs ≥ 0.08 percent, 1982-2006
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 3,060 44 20,547 5,430 26 27,491 8,489 31
2006 7,159 3,154 44 20,164 5,462 27 27,323 8,615 32

Age and gender

Forty-two percent of drivers killed in fixed object crashes in 2006 were males younger than 35. Overall, males accounted for 81 percent of drivers killed in fixed object crashes in 2006.

Driver deaths in fixed object crashes by age and gender, 2006
Age Male Female Total
Num % Num % Num %
< 16 27 < 1 3 < 1 30 < 1
16-19 637 9 189 3 826 12
20-24 1,062 15 198 3 1,260 18
25-29 746 10 130 2 876 12
30-34 510 7 100 1 610 9
35-39 494 7 117 2 611 9
40-44 483 7 124 2 607 8
45-49 458 6 96 1 555 8
50-54 372 5 94 1 466 7
55-59 275 4 78 1 353 5
60-64 207 3 48 1 255 4
65-69 156 2 36 1 192 3
≥ 70 345 5 163 2 510 7
Total* 5,778 81 1,377 19 7,159 100
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Crash types

Ninety-five percent of fixed object crash deaths in 2006 occurred in single-vehicle crashes.

Deaths in fixed object crashes by crash type, 2006
Crash type Deaths %
Single-vehicle crashes 8,705 95
Multiple-vehicle crashes 426 5
All crashes 9,136 100

Eighteen percent of deaths in fixed object crashes in 2006 involved vehicles rolling over.

Deaths in fixed object crashes by rollover occurrence and object struck, 2006
Object struck Rollover No rollover All crashes
Num % Num % Num
Embankment 146 27 392 73 538
Boulder 15 24 48 76 63
Culvert 59 24 189 76 248
Ditch 63 22 227 78 290
Utility pole 233 20 909 80 1,142
Guardrail 83 18 374 82 457
Bridge rail 16 17 76 83 92
Tree 796 17 3,756 83 4,552
Concrete 37 15 211 85 248
Other post/pole 22 14 131 86 153
Fence 22 12 161 88 183
Highway sign support 12 10 110 90 122
Curb 10 8 109 92 119
Other 51 16 268 84 319
Bridge pier 23 14 141 86 164
Light support 18 13 124 87 142
Wall 20 12 141 88 161
Building 16 11 127 89 143
Total 1,642 18 7,494 82 9,136

Eighteen percent of deaths in fixed object crashes in 2006 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, 2006
Ejection Deaths %
Not ejected 7,451 82
Fully ejected 1,219 13
Partially ejected 429 5
Total* 9,136 100
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Sixty-two percent of deaths in fixed object crashes in 2006 occurred in frontal impacts.

Deaths in fixed object crashes by principal point of impact, 2006
Principal point of impact Deaths %
Frontal impact 5,678 62
Side impact — left side 1,276 14
Side impact — right side 1,177 13
Top or undercarriage 449 5
Rear impact 240 3
Unknown 6 <1
Total* 9,136 100
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

When and where crashes occur

Fifteen percent of deaths in fixed object crashes in 2006 occurred on interstates and freeways, 45 percent occurred on other major roads, and 37 percent occurred on minor roads.

Deaths in fixed object crashes by road type, 2006
Road type Deaths %
Interstates and freeways 1,342 15
Other major roads 4,124 45
Minor roads 3,387 37
All road types* 9,136 100
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Fifty-five percent of deaths in fixed object crashes in 2006 occurred on rural roads.

Deaths in fixed object crashes by land use, 2006
Land use Deaths %
Rural 5,054 55
Urban 3,877 42
Total* 9,136 100
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Eleven percent of deaths in fixed object crashes in 2006 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 17 percent, compared with 6 percent in rural areas.

Deaths in fixed object crashes by road classification and relation to junction, 2006
  Urban Rural Total*
Num % Num % Num %
Non-junction 3,198 82 4,772 94 8,157 89
Junction 672 17 281 6 969 11
Total* 3,877 100 5,054 100 9,136 100
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Forty-five percent of deaths in fixed object crashes in 2006 occurred on roads with speed limits 55 mph or higher.

Deaths in fixed object crashes by speed limit, 2006
Speed limit Deaths %
No limit 39 < 1
< 35 mph 1,130 12
35-40 mph 1,910 21
45-50 mph 1,723 19
55+ mph 4,120 45
Total* 9,136 100
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

About half of deaths in fixed object crashes in 2006 occurred at night (9pm-6am). The highest proportion of fixed object crashes occurred between midnight and 3 am (20 percent).

Deaths in fixed object crashes by time of day, 2006
Hour of day Deaths %
Midnight-3am 1,783 20
3am-6am 967 11
6am-9am 757 8
9am-noon 693 8
Noon-3pm 946 10
3pm-6pm 1,166 13
6pm-9pm 1,217 13
9pm-midnight 1,509 17
Total* 9,136 100
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

References