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
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
20069,1812133,5277942,708
20079,1372231,9227841,059

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 struckNum%
Tree4,34148
Utility pole1,19113
Traffic barrier7358
Embankment5997
Ditch2703
Highway sign support2613
Culvert2583
Fence1872
Wall1802
Bridge pier1652
Building1542
Light support1472
Other6497
Total9,137100

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
YearFixed object crashesOtherAll crashes
DeathsEstimated deaths with BACs ≥ 0.08DeathsEstimated deaths with BACs ≥ 0.08DeathsEstimated death 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
20067,1803,1454420,1685,4332727,3488,57831
20077,0903,2544619,3905,3902826,4808,64433

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
AgeMaleFemaleTotal
Num%Num%Num%
<1628<15<133<1
16-195868160274611
20-241,0761517121,24718
25-2969910154285312
30-3446678615528
35-3947278515578
40-44486712726139
45-4948578415698
50-5440169014917
55-5933457214066
60-6421734612634
65-6916225312153
≥ 70378516125398
Total*5,795821,294187,090100
*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 typeDeaths%
Single-vehicle crashes8,69595
Multiple-vehicle crashes4425
All crashes9,137100

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 struckRolloverNo rolloverAll crashes
Num%Num%Num
Boulder1629407156
Culvert742918471258
Ditch742719673270
Bridge rail2025617581
Embankment1412445876599
Utility pole22519966811,191
Other post/pole201710183121
Tree727173,614834,341
Bridge pier251514085165
Concrete381522285260
Wall261415486180
Guardrail641341187475
Fence251316287187
Building161013890154
Curb151013390148
Light support10713793147
Highway sign support9613194140
Other641830082364
Total1,589177,548839,137

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
EjectionDeaths%
Not ejected5,89979
Fully ejected1,10815
Partially ejected4216
Total*7,485100
*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 impactDeaths%
Frontal impact5,71963
Side impact — left side1,30314
Side impact — right side1,14613
Top or undercarriage4024
Rear impact2493
Unknown6<1
Total*9,137100
*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 typeDeaths%
Interstates and freeways1,33215
Other major roads4,31847
Minor roads3,30736
All road types*9,137100
*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 useDeaths%
Rural5,20257
Urban3,81442
Total*9,137100
*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
 UrbanRuralTotal*
Num%Num%Num%
Non-junction3,075814,876948,05288
Junction7351932461,07912
Total*3,8141005,2021009,137100
*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 limitDeaths%
No limit38<1
<35 mph1,19213
35-40 mph1,86020
45-50 mph1,73319
55+ mph4,12045
Total*9,137100
*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 dayDeaths%
Midnight-3am1,82120
3am-6am1,05312
6am-9am7038
9am-noon6727
Noon-3pm93910
3pm-6pm1,16813
6pm-9pm1,24914
9pm-midnight1,41415
Total*9,137100
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

References