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 7,272 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.
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
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
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.
Ninety-five percent of fixed object crash deaths in 2010 occurred in single-vehicle crashes.
Eighteen percent of deaths in fixed object crashes in 2010 involved vehicles rolling over.
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.
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.
Fifty-seven percent of deaths in fixed object crashes in 2010 occurred on rural roads.
Forty-five percent of deaths in fixed object crashes in 2010 occurred on roads with speed limits 55 mph or higher.
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).
©1996-2013, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Highway Loss Data Institute | www.iihs.org
Subscribe to news updates
Watch our channel
Mobile ratings & news