Fixed object crashes | 2008

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 8,623 people died in fixed object crashes in 2008, about 6 percent fewer than in 2007 and about 18 percent fewer than in 1979. The proportion of motor vehicle crash deaths involving collisions with fixed objects has remained between 19 and 23 percent since 1979.

Deaths in fixed object crashes as a percent of all motor vehicle deaths, 1979-2008
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
20079,1682232,0917841,259
20088,6232328,6387737,261

Trees are the most common fixed object struck. Forty-eight percent of deaths in fixed object crashes in 2008 involved a vehicle striking a tree. Utility poles and traffic barriers were the next most common objects struck, accounting for 12 and 8 percent of deaths, respectively.

Percent distribution of fixed object crash deaths by object struck, 2008

Deaths in fixed object crashes by object struck, 2008
Object struckNum%
Tree4,18248
Utility pole1,02912
Traffic barrier6868
Embankment5446
Highway sign support2833
Ditch2623
Culvert2213
Fence1792
Building1732
Bridge pier1732
Wall1562
Light support1251
Other6107
Total8,623100

Alcohol

Forty-five percent of drivers killed in fixed object crashes in 2008 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 3,087 in 2008, a reduction of 27 percent.

Percent of fatally injured drivers with BACs ≥ 0.08 percent by crash type, 1982-2008

Estimated number and percent of fatally injured drivers with BACs ≥ 0.08 percent, 1982-2008
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
20067,1803,1454420,1685,4332727,3488,57831
20077,1073,2444619,4635,3742826,5708,61732
20086,8163,0874517,3594,9402824,1758,02733

Age and gender

Forty percent of drivers killed in fixed object crashes in 2008 were males younger than 35. Overall, males accounted for 82 percent of drivers killed in fixed object crashes in 2008.

Driver deaths in fixed object crashes by age and gender, 2008
AgeMaleFemaleTotal
Num%Num%Num%
< 1624< 17< 131< 1
16-195388145268410
20-249561418531,14117
25-2969810118281612
30-3450478215869
35-3943668415208
40-4443669515318
45-49466711425809
50-5437058814587
55-5927746413415
60-6428147313555
65-6915224411963
≥ 70420615325738
Total*5,562821,252186,816100
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Crash types

Ninety-five percent of fixed object crash deaths in 2008 occurred in single-vehicle crashes.

Deaths in fixed object crashes by crash type, 2008
Crash typeDeaths%
Single-vehicle crashes8,19595
Multiple-vehicle crashes4265
All crashes8,623100

Eighteen percent of deaths in fixed object crashes in 2008 involved vehicles rolling over.

Deaths in fixed object crashes by rollover occurrence and object struck, 2008
Object struckRolloverNo rolloverAll crashes
Num%Num%Num
Embankment1703137469544
Boulder1429347148
Culvert632915871221
Ditch592320377262
Bridge rail1522527867
Utility pole22222807781,029
Bridge pier291714483173
Tree707173,475834,182
Guardrail661538485450
Wall231513385156
Concrete331420386236
Light support171410886125
Highway sign support191312887147
Other post/pole171211988136
Fence221215788179
Building14815992173
Curb6511895124
Other451232688371
Total1,541187,082828,623

About 20 percent of deaths in fixed object crashes in 2008 involved occupant ejection; 14 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, 2008
EjectionDeaths%
Not ejected5,49779
Fully ejected99114
Partially ejected4216
Total*6,957100
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Sixty-four percent of deaths in fixed object crashes in 2008 occurred in frontal impacts.

Deaths in fixed object crashes by principal point of impact, 2008
Principal point of impactDeaths%
Frontal impact5,52164
Side impact — left side1,14013
Side impact — right side1,00112
Top or undercarriage4395
Rear impact2253
Unknown11< 1
Total*8,623100
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

When and where crashes occur

Fifteen percent of deaths in fixed object crashes in 2008 occurred on interstates and freeways, 46 percent occurred on other major roads, and 37 percent occurred on minor roads.

Deaths in fixed object crashes by road type, 2008
Road typeDeaths%
Interstates and freeways1,28715
Other major roads3,97446
Minor roads3,22037
All road types*8,623100
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Fifty-seven percent of deaths in fixed object crashes in 2008 occurred on rural roads.

Deaths in fixed object crashes by land use, 2008
Land useDeaths%
Rural4,95557
Urban3,56041
Total*8,623100
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Twelve percent of deaths in fixed object crashes in 2008 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, 2008
 UrbanRuralTotal*
Num%Num%Num%
Non-junction2,841804,606937,54387
Junction7162034971,07712
Unknown3030
Total*3,5601004,9551008,623100
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Forty-five percent of deaths in fixed object crashes in 2008 occurred on roads with speed limits 55 mph or higher.

Deaths in fixed object crashes by speed limit, 2008
Speed limitDeaths%
No limit471
< 35 mph1,12313
35-40 mph1,75020
45-50 mph1,65019
55+ mph3,85245
Total*8,623100
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

About half of deaths in fixed object crashes in 2008 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, 2008
Hour of dayDeaths%
Midnight-3am1,68620
3am-6am92811
6am-9am7208
9am-noon6798
Noon-3pm91711
3pm-6pm1,10513
6pm-9pm1,12713
9pm-midnight1,37416
Total*8,623100
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

References