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Temporal factors in motor vehicle crashes — 10 years later

Weast, Rebecca
Journal of Safety Research
June 2018

Objective: To assess trends in traffic fatalities on several temporal scales: year to year, by month, by day of week, and by time of day, to determine why some times correspond with higher rates of crash deaths, and to assess how these trends relate to age, the role of the deceased, and alcohol consumption.
Method: Traffic fatalities were identified using the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) for 1998 through 2014 and assessed for their time of occurrence. Three days that, on average, contained particularly high numbers of crash deaths were then assessed in greater detail, considering the age of the deceased, role of the deceased (vehicle occupant, bicyclist, motorcyclist, or pedestrian), and the blood alcohol content of either the driver (for passenger vehicle occupants) or the deceased.
Results: Annual crash fatality totals were much lower in 2014 than in 1998, but the decrease was not steady; a marked drop in crash deaths occurred after 2007 and continued until 2014. On average the most fatalities per day occurred in July and August (116 per day), followed closely by June, September, and October. During the week, the greatest number of fatalities on average occur on weekend days, and during the day the most fatalities tend to occur between the hours of 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Holidays like Independence Day and New Year’s Day show elevated crash fatalities, and a greater percentage of these crashes involved alcohol, when compared with adjacent days.
Conclusion: Certain days and times of year stand out as posing an elevated crash risk, and even with the decrease in average daily fatalities over the past decade, these days and times of year have remained consistent.