Collisions with fixed objects and animals | 2011

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. 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.

Although far fewer deaths occur in collisions with animals, since 1975 there has been a general upward trend. A majority of these deaths occur during July-December.

The following facts are based on analysis of data from the U.S. Department of Transportation's Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS). For deaths in collisions with fixed objects, 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. The information on collisions with animals is based on fatal crashes in which the first harmful event coded was a collision with an animal; many of these collisions involve secondary impacts that are more severe, such as colliding with another vehicle or a tree. Information on the first harmful event has been available since FARS was established in 1975.

Trends

A total of 7,069 people died in fixed object crashes in 2011, 3 percent fewer than in 2010 and 33 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, 1979-2011
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 7,290 22 25,709 78 32,999 100
2011 7,069 22 25,298 78 32,367 100

Trees are the most common fixed object struck. Fifty percent of deaths in fixed object crashes in 2011 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.

Deaths in fixed object crashes by object struck, 2011
Object struckNumber%
Tree 3,563 50
Utility pole 910 13
Traffic barrier 573 8
Embankment 447 6
Ditch 224 3
Culvert 197 3
Building 157 2
Bridge pier 151 2
Fence 150 2
Wall 130 2
Highway sign support 119 2
Other 448 6
Total 7,069 100

Alcohol

Forty-three percent of drivers killed in fixed object crashes in 2011 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 percentage of drivers killed in fixed object crashes with BACs at or above 0.08 percent declined from 66 percent in 1982 to 43 percent in 2011, a reduction of 35 percent.

Estimated number and percent of fatally injured drivers with BACs ≥ 0.08 percent by crash type, 1982-2011
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 5,725 2,517 44 15,347 4,062 26 21,072 6,579 31
2011 5,630 2,436 43 15,123 4,071 27 20,753 6,507 31

Age and gender

Twenty-nine percent of drivers killed in fixed object crashes in 2011 were males younger than 30. Overall, males accounted for 81 percent of drivers killed in fixed object crashes in 2011.

Driver deaths in fixed object crashes by age and gender, 2011
AgeMale Female Total
Number%Number%Number%
<16 10 <1 4 <1 14 <1
16-19 378 7 103 2 481 9
20-24 712 13 160 3 872 15
25-29 545 10 111 2 656 12
30-34 452 8 91 2 543 10
35-39 323 6 74 1 397 7
40-44 337 6 74 1 411 7
45-49 361 6 79 1 440 8
50-54 357 6 78 1 435 8
55-59 306 5 56 1 362 6
60-64 244 4 54 1 298 5
65-69 169 3 51 1 220 4
≥70 355 6 144 3 499 9
Total* 4,550 81 1,079 19 5,630 100

Crash types

Ninety-five percent of fixed object crash deaths in 2011 occurred in single-vehicle crashes.

Deaths in fixed object crashes by crash type, 2011
Crash typeDeaths%
Single-vehicle crashes 6,731 95
Multiple-vehicle crashes 338 5
All crashes 7,069 100

Eighteen percent of deaths in fixed object crashes in 2011 involved vehicles rolling over.

Deaths in fixed object crashes by rollover occurrence and object struck, 2011
Object struckRollover No rolloverAll crashes
Number%Number%Number%
Culvert 67 35 130 66 197 100
Boulder 14 31 31 69 45 100
Embankment 124 28 323 72 447 100
Ditch 56 25 168 75 224 100
Bridge rail 17 22 59 78 76 100
Guardrail 76 19 321 81 397 100
Wall 23 18 107 82 130 100
Tree 604 17 2,959 83 3,563 100
Utility pole 146 16 764 84 910 100
Concrete 27 15 149 85 176 100
Bridge pier 21 14 130 86 151 100
Fence 21 14 129 86 150 100
Building 14 9 143 91 157 100
Other post/pole 10 8 109 92 119 100
Curb 8 8 90 92 98 100
Other 31 14 198 86 229 100
Total 1,259 18 5,810 82 7,069 100

About 19 percent of passenger vehicle occupant deaths in fixed object crashes in 2011 involved ejection; 13 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, 2011
Ejection statusDeaths%
Not ejected 4,587 80
Fully ejected 751 13
Partially ejected 360 6
Total* 5,720 100

When and where crashes occur

Fourteen percent of deaths in fixed object crashes in 2011 occurred on interstates and freeways, 48 percent occurred on other major roads, and 36 percent occurred on minor roads.

Deaths in fixed object crashes by road type, 2011
Road typeDeaths%
Interstates and freeways 996 14
Other major roads 3,413 48
Minor roads 2,569 36
All road types* 7,069 100

Fifty-eight percent of deaths in fixed object crashes in 2011 occurred on rural roads.

Deaths in fixed object crashes by land use, 2011
Land useDeaths%
Rural 4,129 58
Urban 2,905 41
Total* 7,069 100

Forty-six percent of deaths in fixed object crashes in 2011 occurred on roads with speed limits 55 mph or higher.

Deaths in fixed object crashes by speed limit, 2011
Speed limitDeaths%
No limit 18 <1
<35 mph 913 13
35-40 mph 1,483 21
45-50 mph 1,344 19
55+ mph 3,311 46
Total* 7,069 100

About half of deaths in fixed object crashes in 2011 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 (14 percent).

Deaths in fixed object crashes by time of day, 2011
Hour of dayDeaths%
Midnight - 3 a.m. 1,340 19
3 a.m. - 6 a.m. 773 11
6 a.m. - 9 a.m. 631 9
9 a.m. - Noon 539 8
Noon - 3 p.m. 817 12
3 p.m. - 6 p.m. 940 13
6 p.m. - 9 p.m. 937 13
9 p.m. - Midnight 1,024 14
Total* 7,069 100

Collisions with animals

Since 1975 there has been a general upward trend in deaths from collisions with animals. These deaths increased from 89 in 1975 to 199 in 2011. In 2011, 68 percent of the deaths occurred during July-December.

Motor vehicle crash deaths in collisions with animals by quarter of the year, 1975-2011
YearMonthsTotal
Jan-MarApr-JunJul-SepOct-Dec
1975 14 15 28 32 89
1976 15 25 34 25 99
1977 13 15 27 24 79
1978 7 19 34 20 80
1979 16 21 30 35 102
1980 14 22 33 25 94
1981 14 19 43 29 105
1982 10 18 27 27 82
1983 11 28 32 24 95
1984 11 25 33 23 92
1985 12 24 44 24 104
1986 21 29 26 35 111
1987 15 30 35 31 111
1988 14 23 44 37 118
1989 20 33 42 36 131
1990 14 17 39 36 106
1991 23 34 31 34 122
1992 20 27 34 39 120
1993 16 22 27 36 101
1994 20 41 27 43 131
1995 17 29 36 41 123
1996 14 59 38 42 153
1997 17 35 39 45 136
1998 17 36 59 53 165
1999 18 35 46 53 152
2000 29 30 45 46 150
2001 24 51 43 59 177
2002 21 42 57 50 170
2003 23 57 72 60 212
2004 26 55 62 61 204
2005 18 47 57 58 180
2006 26 67 63 66 222
2007 15 64 82 62 223
2008 25 58 70 57 210
2009 24 52 67 41 184
2010 20 62 87 44 213
2011 19 44 71 65 199

References