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
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
20059,0622134,4487943,510
20069,1362133,5067942,642

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 struckNum%
Tree4,55250
Utility pole1,14212
Traffic barriers8059
Embankment5386
Ditch2903
Highway sign support2753
Culvert2483
Fence1832
Bridge pier1642
Wall1612
Building1432
Light support1422
Other4935
Total9,136100

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
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
20056,9443,0604420,5475,4302627,4918,48931
20067,1593,1544420,1645,4622727,3238,61532

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
AgeMaleFemaleTotal
Num%Num%Num%
< 1627< 13< 130< 1
16-196379189382612
20-241,0621519831,26018
25-2974610130287612
30-34510710016109
35-39494711726119
40-44483712426078
45-4945869615558
50-5437259414667
55-5927547813535
60-6420734812554
65-6915623611923
≥ 70345516325107
Total*5,778811,377197,159100
*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 typeDeaths%
Single-vehicle crashes8,70595
Multiple-vehicle crashes4265
All crashes9,136100

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 struckRolloverNo rolloverAll crashes
Num%Num%Num
Embankment1462739273538
Boulder1524487663
Culvert592418976248
Ditch632222778290
Utility pole23320909801,142
Guardrail831837482457
Bridge rail1617768392
Tree796173,756834,552
Concrete371521185248
Other post/pole221413186153
Fence221216188183
Highway sign support121011090122
Curb10810992119
Other511626884319
Bridge pier231414186164
Light support181312487142
Wall201214188161
Building161112789143
Total1,642187,494829,136

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
EjectionDeaths%
Not ejected7,45182
Fully ejected1,21913
Partially ejected4295
Total*9,136100
*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 impactDeaths%
Frontal impact5,67862
Side impact — left side1,27614
Side impact — right side1,17713
Top or undercarriage4495
Rear impact2403
Unknown6<1
Total*9,136100
*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 typeDeaths%
Interstates and freeways1,34215
Other major roads4,12445
Minor roads3,38737
All road types*9,136100
*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 useDeaths%
Rural5,05455
Urban3,87742
Total*9,136100
*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
 UrbanRuralTotal*
Num%Num%Num%
Non-junction3,198824,772948,15789
Junction67217281696911
Total*3,8771005,0541009,136100
*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 limitDeaths%
No limit39< 1
< 35 mph1,13012
35-40 mph1,91021
45-50 mph1,72319
55+ mph4,12045
Total*9,136100
*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 dayDeaths%
Midnight-3am1,78320
3am-6am96711
6am-9am7578
9am-noon6938
Noon-3pm94610
3pm-6pm1,16613
6pm-9pm1,21713
9pm-midnight1,50917
Total*9,136100
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

References