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. 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.
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.
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.
Percent distribution of fixed object crash deaths by object struck, 2011
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.
Percent of fatally injured drivers with BACs ≥ 0.08 percent by crash type, 1982-2011
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.
Ninety-five percent of fixed object crash deaths in 2011 occurred in single-vehicle crashes.
Eighteen percent of deaths in fixed object crashes in 2011 involved vehicles rolling over.
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.
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.
Fifty-eight percent of deaths in fixed object crashes in 2011 occurred on rural roads.
Forty-six percent of deaths in fixed object crashes in 2011 occurred on roads with speed limits 55 mph or higher.
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).
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 involving collisions with animals, 1975-2011
©1996-2013, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Highway Loss Data Institute | www.iihs.org
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