Fixed object crashes | 2007

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

The information is based on fatal crashes in which the most harmful event coded 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.

Trends

A total of 9,137 people died in fixed object crashes in 2007, less than 1 percent fewer than in 2006 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, 1979-2007
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 9,181 21 33,527 79 42,708
2007 9,137 22 31,922 78 41,059

Trees are the most common fixed object struck. Forty-eight percent of deaths in fixed object crashes in 2007 involved a vehicle striking a tree. Utility poles and traffic barriers were the next most common objects struck, accounting for 13 and 8 percent of deaths, respectively.

Percent distribution of fixed object crash deaths by object struck, 2007

Deaths in fixed object crashes by object struck, 2007
Object struck Num %
Tree 4,341 48
Utility pole 1,191 13
Traffic barrier 735 8
Embankment 599 7
Ditch 270 3
Highway sign support 261 3
Culvert 258 3
Fence 187 2
Wall 180 2
Bridge pier 165 2
Building 154 2
Light support 147 2
Other 649 7
Total 9,137 100

Alcohol

Forty-six percent of drivers killed in fixed object crashes in 2007 had blood alcohol concentrations (BACs) at or above 0.08 percent. By comparison, 28 percent of drivers killed 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 3,254 in 2007, a reduction of 23 percent.

Percent of fatally injured drivers with BACs ≥ 0.08 percent by crash type, 1982-2007

Estimated number and percent of fatally injured drivers with BACs ≥ 0.08 percent, 1982-2007
Year Fixed object crashes Other All crashes
Deaths Estimated deaths with BACs ≥ 0.08 Deaths Estimated deaths with BACs ≥ 0.08 Deaths Estimated death 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 7,180 3,145 44 20,168 5,433 27 27,348 8,578 31
2007 7,090 3,254 46 19,390 5,390 28 26,480 8,644 33

Age and gender

Forty percent of drivers killed in fixed object crashes in 2007 were males younger than 35. Overall, males accounted for 82 percent of drivers killed in fixed object crashes in 2007.

Driver deaths in fixed object crashes by age and gender, 2007
Age Male Female Total
Num % Num % Num %
<16 28 <1 5 <1 33 <1
16-19 586 8 160 2 746 11
20-24 1,076 15 171 2 1,247 18
25-29 699 10 154 2 853 12
30-34 466 7 86 1 552 8
35-39 472 7 85 1 557 8
40-44 486 7 127 2 613 9
45-49 485 7 84 1 569 8
50-54 401 6 90 1 491 7
55-59 334 5 72 1 406 6
60-64 217 3 46 1 263 4
65-69 162 2 53 1 215 3
≥ 70 378 5 161 2 539 8
Total* 5,795 82 1,294 18 7,090 100
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Crash types

Ninety-five percent of fixed object crash deaths in 2007 occurred in single-vehicle crashes.

Deaths in fixed object crashes by crash type, 2007
Crash type Deaths %
Single-vehicle crashes 8,695 95
Multiple-vehicle crashes 442 5
All crashes 9,137 100

Seventeen percent of deaths in fixed object crashes in 2007 involved vehicles rolling over.

Deaths in fixed object crashes by rollover occurrence and object struck, 2007
Object struck Rollover No rollover All crashes
Num % Num % Num
Boulder 16 29 40 71 56
Culvert 74 29 184 71 258
Ditch 74 27 196 73 270
Bridge rail 20 25 61 75 81
Embankment 141 24 458 76 599
Utility pole 225 19 966 81 1,191
Other post/pole 20 17 101 83 121
Tree 727 17 3,614 83 4,341
Bridge pier 25 15 140 85 165
Concrete 38 15 222 85 260
Wall 26 14 154 86 180
Guardrail 64 13 411 87 475
Fence 25 13 162 87 187
Building 16 10 138 90 154
Curb 15 10 133 90 148
Light support 10 7 137 93 147
Highway sign support 9 6 131 94 140
Other 64 18 300 82 364
Total 1,589 17 7,548 83 9,137

About twenty percent of deaths in fixed object crashes in 2007 involved occupant ejection; 15 percent of the occupants killed were fully ejected, and 6 percent were partially ejected.

Passenger vehicle occupant deaths in fixed object crashes by occupant ejection status, 2007
Ejection Deaths %
Not ejected 5,899 79
Fully ejected 1,108 15
Partially ejected 421 6
Total* 7,485 100
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Sixty-three percent of deaths in fixed object crashes in 2007 occurred in frontal impacts.

Deaths in fixed object crashes by principal point of impact, 2007
Principal point of impact Deaths %
Frontal impact 5,719 63
Side impact — left side 1,303 14
Side impact — right side 1,146 13
Top or undercarriage 402 4
Rear impact 249 3
Unknown 6 <1
Total* 9,137 100
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

When and where crashes occur

Fifteen percent of deaths in fixed object crashes in 2007 occurred on interstates and freeways, 47 percent occurred on other major roads, and 36 percent occurred on minor roads.

Deaths in fixed object crashes by road type, 2007
Road type Deaths %
Interstates and freeways 1,332 15
Other major roads 4,318 47
Minor roads 3,307 36
All road types* 9,137 100
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Fifty-seven percent of deaths in fixed object crashes in 2007 occurred on rural roads.

Deaths in fixed object crashes by land use, 2007
Land use Deaths %
Rural 5,202 57
Urban 3,814 42
Total* 9,137 100
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Twelve percent of deaths in fixed object crashes in 2007 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 19 percent, compared with 6 percent in rural areas.

Deaths in fixed object crashes by road classification and relation to junction, 2007
  Urban Rural Total*
Num % Num % Num %
Non-junction 3,075 81 4,876 94 8,052 88
Junction 735 19 324 6 1,079 12
Total* 3,814 100 5,202 100 9,137 100
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Forty-five percent of deaths in fixed object crashes in 2007 occurred on roads with speed limits 55 mph or higher.

Deaths in fixed object crashes by speed limit, 2007
Speed limit Deaths %
No limit 38 <1
<35 mph 1,192 13
35-40 mph 1,860 20
45-50 mph 1,733 19
55+ mph 4,120 45
Total* 9,137 100
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

About half of deaths in fixed object crashes in 2007 occurred at night (9pm-6am). The highest proportion of fixed object crashes occurred between midnight and 3am (20 percent).

Deaths in fixed object crashes by time of day, 2007
Hour of day Deaths %
Midnight-3am 1,821 20
3am-6am 1,053 12
6am-9am 703 8
9am-noon 672 7
Noon-3pm 939 10
3pm-6pm 1,168 13
6pm-9pm 1,249 14
9pm-midnight 1,414 15
Total* 9,137 100
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

References