Fixed object crashes | 2010

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.

Trends

A total of 7,272 people died in fixed object crashes in 2010, 7 percent fewer than in 2009 and 31 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 crash deaths, 1979-2010
YearFixed object crash deathsOther deaths All deaths
Number%Number%Number%
1979 10,550 21 40,543 79 51,093 100
1980 10,968 21 40,123 79 51,091 100
1981 9,464 19 39,837 81 49,301 100
1982 8,417 19 35,528 81 43,945 100
1983 8,333 20 34,256 80 42,589 100
1984 8,796 20 35,461 80 44,257 100
1985 9,319 21 34,506 79 43,825 100
1986 9,851 21 36,236 79 46,087 100
1987 9,662 21 36,728 79 46,390 100
1988 9,865 21 37,222 79 47,087 100
1989 9,537 21 36,045 79 45,582 100
1990 9,355 21 35,244 79 44,599 100
1991 8,894 21 32,614 79 41,508 100
1992 8,221 21 31,029 79 39,250 100
1993 8,256 21 31,894 79 40,150 100
1994 8,142 20 32,574 80 40,716 100
1995 8,524 20 33,293 80 41,817 100
1996 8,442 20 33,623 80 42,065 100
1997 8,381 20 33,632 80 42,013 100
1998 8,401 20 33,100 80 41,501 100
1999 8,431 20 33,286 80 41,717 100
2000 8,899 21 33,046 79 41,945 100
2001 9,011 21 33,185 79 42,196 100
2002 9,580 22 33,425 78 43,005 100
2003 9,433 22 33,451 78 42,884 100
2004 9,123 21 33,713 79 42,836 100
2005 9,062 21 34,448 79 43,510 100
2006 9,181 21 33,527 79 42,708 100
2007 9,168 22 32,091 78 41,259 100
2008 8,661 23 28,762 77 37,423 100
2009 7,813 23 26,070 77 33,883 100
2010 7,272 22 25,613 78 32,885 100

Trees are the most common fixed object struck. Fifty percent of deaths in fixed object crashes in 2010 involved a vehicle striking a tree. Utility poles and traffic barriers were the next most common objects struck, accounting for 14 and 8 percent of deaths, respectively.

Percent distribution of fixed object crash deaths by object struck, 2010

Deaths in fixed object crashes by object struck, 2010
Object struckNumber%
Tree 3,614 50
Utility pole 1,015 14
Traffic barrier 611 8
Embankment 389 5
Ditch 253 3
Culvert 212 3
Fence 175 2
Wall 141 2
Building 139 2
Highway sign support 134 2
Bridge pier 132 2
Other 457 6
Total 7,272 100

Alcohol

Forty-five percent of drivers killed in fixed object crashes in 2010 had blood alcohol concentrations (BACs) at or above 0.08 percent. By comparison, 27 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 2,548 in 2010, a reduction of 39 percent.

Percent of fatally injured drivers with BACs ≥ 0.08 percent by crash type, 1982-2010

Estimated number and percent of fatally injured drivers with BACs ≥ 0.08 percent by crash type, 1982-2010
YearFixed object crashesOther Crashes All Crashes
Driver deathsEstimated deaths with BACs ≥ 0.08Driver deathsEstimated deaths with BACs ≥ 0.08Driver deathsEstimated deaths with BACs ≥ 0.08
NumberNumber%NumberNumber%NumberNumber%
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 7,107 3,244 46 19,463 5,374 28 26,570 8,617 32
2008 6,839 3,082 45 17,415 4,879 28 24,254 7,961 33
2009 6,147 2,734 44 15,688 4,479 29 21,835 7,213 33
2010 5,712 2,548 45 15,304 4,078 27 21,016 6,626 32

Age and gender

Twenty-eight percent of drivers killed in fixed object crashes in 2010 were males younger than 30. Overall, males accounted for 80 percent of drivers killed in fixed object crashes in 2010.

Driver deaths in fixed object crashes by age and gender, 2010
AgeMale Female Total
Number%Number%Number%
<16 16 <1 5 <1 21 <1
16-19 351 6 115 2 466 8
20-24 711 12 166 3 877 15
25-29 548 10 96 2 644 11
30-34 398 7 107 2 505 9
35-39 361 6 82 1 443 8
40-44 364 6 89 2 454 8
45-49 383 7 91 2 474 8
50-54 351 6 81 1 432 8
55-59 297 5 76 1 373 7
60-64 242 4 50 1 292 5
65-69 160 3 43 1 203 4
≥70 371 6 155 3 526 9
Total* 4,555 80 1,156 20 5,712 100

Crash types

Ninety-five percent of fixed object crash deaths in 2010 occurred in single-vehicle crashes.

Deaths in fixed object crashes by crash type, 2010
Crash typeDeaths%
Single-vehicle crashes 6,928 95
Multiple-vehicle crashes 344 5
All crashes 7,272 100

Eighteen percent of deaths in fixed object crashes in 2010 involved vehicles rolling over.

Deaths in fixed object crashes by rollover occurrence and object struck, 2010
Object struckRollover No rolloverAll crashes
Number%Number%Number%
Culvert 70 33 142 67 212 100
Embankment 130 34 259 67 389 100
Boulder 11 28 28 72 39 100
Ditch 72 28 181 72 253 100
Concrete 39 22 140 78 179 100
Fence 35 20 140 80 175 100
Wall 27 19 114 81 141 100
Guardrail 73 17 359 83 432 100
Utility pole 175 17 840 83 1,015 100
Tree 589 16 3,025 84 3,614 100
Bridge rail 12 15 69 85 81 100
Bridge pier 16 12 116 88 132 100
Other post/pole 16 12 118 88 134 100
Building 15 11 124 89 139 100
Curb 9 8 104 92 113 100
Other 28 12 196 88 224 100
Total 1,317 18 5,955 82 7,272 100

About 21 percent of passenger vehicle occupant deaths in fixed object crashes in 2010 involved 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, 2010
EjectionDeaths%
Not ejected 4,655 79
Fully ejected 889 15
Partially ejected 352 6
Total* 5,934 100

When and where crashes occur

Fourteen percent of deaths in fixed object crashes in 2010 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, 2010
Road typeDeaths%
Interstates and freeways 1,054 14
Other major roads 3,426 47
Minor roads 2,647 36
All road types* 7,272 100

Fifty-seven percent of deaths in fixed object crashes in 2010 occurred on rural roads.

Deaths in fixed object crashes by land use, 2010
Land useDeaths%
Rural 4,134 57
Urban 3,037 42
Total* 7,272 100

Forty-five percent of deaths in fixed object crashes in 2010 occurred on roads with speed limits 55 mph or higher.

Deaths in fixed object crashes by speed limit, 2010
Speed limitDeaths%
No limit 22 <1
<35 mph 1,003 14
35-40 mph 1,389 19
45-50 mph 1,446 20
55+ mph 3,277 45
Total* 7,272 100

About half of deaths in fixed object crashes in 2010 occurred at night (9 p.m.-6 a.m.). The highest proportions of deaths in fixed object crashes occurred between midnight and 3 a.m. (19 percent) and between 9 p.m. and midnight (15 percent).

Deaths in fixed object crashes by time of day, 2010
Hour of dayDeaths%
Midnight - 3 a.m. 1,381 19
3 a.m. - 6 a.m. 787 11
6 a.m. - 9 a.m. 591 8
9 a.m. - Noon 608 8
Noon - 3 p.m. 819 11
3 p.m. - 6 p.m. 925 13
6 p.m. - 9 p.m. 998 14
9 p.m. - Midnight 1,086 15
Total* 7,272 100

References