Where you drive affects the risks you face.
About 20 percent of motor vehicle crash deaths result from a vehicle leaving the roadway and hitting a fixed object alongside the road. Trees, utility poles, and traffic barriers are the most common objects struck. About half of the deaths in fixed object crashes occur at night.
Alcohol is a frequent contributing factor in these crashes. Motorists also run off the road because of excessive speeds, falling asleep, inattention, or poor visibility. Efforts to reduce these driver errors are only somewhat effective, so it's important to remove fixed objects or avoid putting them along roads in the first place, especially roads where vehicles are more likely to leave the pavement. Less preferred options include using breakaway objects or shielding or increasing the visibility of the objects.
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. Information on the most harmful event became available in FARS in 1979.
A total of 7,800 people died in fixed object crashes in 2009, 10 percent fewer than in 2008 and 26 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.
Trees are the most common fixed object struck. Forty-nine percent of deaths in fixed object crashes in 2009 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, 2009
Forty-five percent of drivers killed in fixed object crashes in 2009 had blood alcohol concentrations (BACs) at or above 0.08 percent. By comparison, 29 percent of drivers killed in other types of fatal crashes had BACs this high. The number of drivers killed in fixed object crashes with BACs at or above 0.08 percent declined from a high of 4,209 in 1986 to 2,770 in 2009, a reduction of 34 percent.
Percent of fatally injured drivers with BACs ≥ 0.08 percent by crash type, 1982-2009
Thirty percent of drivers killed in fixed object crashes in 2009 were males younger than 30. Overall, males accounted for 80 percent of drivers killed in fixed object crashes in 2009.
Ninety-five percent of fixed object crash deaths in 2009 occurred in single-vehicle crashes.
Eighteen percent of deaths in fixed object crashes in 2009 involved vehicles rolling over.
About 19 percent of passenger vehicle occupant deaths in fixed object crashes in 2009 involved ejection; 13 percent of the occupants killed were fully ejected, and 6 percent were partially ejected.
Sixty-two percent of deaths in fixed object crashes in 2009 occurred in frontal impacts.
Fifteen percent of deaths in fixed object crashes in 2009 occurred on interstates and freeways, 46 percent occurred on other major roads, and 38 percent occurred on minor roads.
Fifty-eight percent of deaths in fixed object crashes in 2009 occurred on rural roads.
Twelve percent of deaths in fixed object crashes in 2009 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.
Forty-four percent of deaths in fixed object crashes in 2009 occurred on roads with speed limits 55 mph or higher.
About half of deaths in fixed object crashes in 2009 occurred at night (9pm-6am). The highest proportions of fixed object crashes occurred between midnight and 3am (19 percent) and between 9pm and midnight (16 percent).
©1996-2013, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Highway Loss Data Institute | www.iihs.org
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