New NHTSA Study

drowsy drivingWhen dealing with a ‘ton of data’ about crashes, causes, contributing factors, costs and such, it can take several years to fully value and understand what it all means.  Why?

  1. First, there’s a lot to analyze.  
  2. Second, not all final crash costs are known until the bulk of medical treatments have been completed and reported.  
  3. Third, data about the source data becomes available during the analysis process (we gain insights as the analysis proceeds — sometimes causing us to reverse and re-examine details).

With these points in mind, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently released a new study of “The Economic and Societal Impact Of Motor Vehicle Crashes” that occurred during 2010.

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We wanted to share some select quotes from the study to highlight several key findings.

In 2010, there were 32,999 people killed, 3.9 million were injured, and 24 million vehicles were damaged in motor vehicle crashes in the United States. The economic costs of these crashes totaled $277 billion. Included in these losses are lost productivity, medical costs, legal and court costs, emergency service costs (EMS), insurance administration costs, congestion costs, property damage, and workplace losses. The $277 billion cost of motor vehicle crashes represents the equivalent of nearly $897 for each of the 308.7 million people living in the United States, and 1.9 percent of the $14.96 trillion real U.S. Gross Domestic Product for 2010. These figures include both police-reported and unreported crashes. When quality of life valuations are considered, the total value of societal harm from motor vehicle crashes in 2010 was $871 billion. Lost market and household productivity accounted for $93 billion of the total $277 billion economic costs, while property damage accounted for $76 billion. Medical expenses totaled $35 billion. Congestion caused by crashes, including travel delay, excess fuel consumption, greenhouse gases and criteria pollutants accounted for $28 billion. Each fatality resulted in an average discounted lifetime cost of $1.4 million. Public revenues paid for roughly 9 percent of all motor vehicle crash costs, costing tax payers $24 billion in 2010, the equivalent of over $200 in added taxes for every household in the United States.

Clearly, traffic crashes cost a lot of money!

Key contributing factors to the crash data in 2010 included:

  • Impaired (drunk) driving
  • Speed
  • Distraction
  • Seat belts saved many, but some (3,350 people) perished for failing to use their restraints properly/consistently

It is staggering to realize that during 2010, there were more than 3.9 million people injured in 13.6 million motor vehicle crashes (including about 33,000 fatalities).  Alcohol-involved crashes accounted for about 21 percent of all crash costs and a third of all road deaths.

Speed-related crashes (where at least one driver was exceeding the posted limit OR driving too fast for conditions) were connected to 10,536 fatalities (another third of the total for the year).

So, in hindsight, if all drivers had:

  1. worn their seatbelts properly,
  2. avoided driving while impaired and
  3. followed the speed limit (or driven with regard to local conditions)

then, about two-thirds of all road deaths could have been avoided (22,000 lives saved).

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The opening paragraph of the study that deals with speeding says a lot in a few words:

Excess speed can contribute to both the frequency and severity of motor vehicle crashes. At higher speeds, additional time is required to stop a vehicle and more distance is traveled before corrective maneuvers can be implemented. Speeding reduces a driver’s ability to react to emergencies created by driver inattention; by unsafe maneuvers of other vehicles; by roadway hazards; by vehicle system failures (such as tire blowouts); or by hazardous weather conditions. The fact that a vehicle was exceeding the speed limit does not necessarily mean that this was the cause of the crash, but the probability of avoiding the crash would likely be greater had the driver or drivers been traveling at slower speeds. A speed-related crash is defined as any crash in which the police indicate that one or more drivers involved was exceeding the posted speed limit, driving too fast for conditions, driving at a speed greater than reasonable or prudent, exceeding a special speed limit or zone, or racing.

In short, speeding robs you of needed reaction time – you need to make judgments faster and have less room to maneuver in an emergency.  Each of us can choose to drive slower and buy time to react and respond, but we’re often in a ‘hurry’ to get to our destination, and choose to increase or risk.

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The study reminded us of the urgent need for ALL drivers of cars, trucks, buses to properly use restraints such as seatbelts whenever driving.  Consider these statistics:

When properly fastened, seat belts provide significant protection to vehicle occupants involved in a crash. The simple act of buckling a seat belt can improve an occupant’s chance of surviving a potentially fatal crash by from 44 to 73 percent, depending on the type of vehicle and seating position involved. They are also highly effective against serious nonfatal injuries. Belts reduce the chance of receiving an MAIS 2-5 injury (moderate to critical) by 49 to 78 percent.

MirrorPoster_72dpiThe report did not have kind words for the use of motorcycles (however, I could speculate that the authors were concerned for the welfare of riders in delivering their findings in a stark way):

Motorcycles are the most hazardous form of motor vehicle transportation. The lack of external protection provided by vehicle structure, the lack of internal protection provided by seat belts and air bags, their speed capability, the propensity for riders to become airborne through ejection, and the relative instability inherent with riding a two-wheeled vehicle all contribute to making the motorcycle the most risky passenger vehicle. In 2010, 4,518 motorcyclists were killed and 96,000 were injured in police-reported crashes on our Nation’s roadways. This represents 14 percent of all traffic fatalities and 3 percent of all police-reported injuries. Motorcycles accounted for only 0.6 percent of all vehicle miles traveled in 2010. Per vehicle mile traveled in 2010, a motorcyclist was about 30 times more likely than a passenger car occupant to die in a motor vehicle traffic crash and 5 times more likely to be injured. The difference in these proportions reflects the more severe injury profile that results from motorcycle crashes. Over the past several decades motorcycle fatalities and injuries have generally increased relative to those in other vehicle types.

Other observations included a good reminder that intersections continue to be a prime location for crashes since there are so many ways that vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists can interact with each other during turns or even while transiting the intersection (straight across).

SUMMARY

While the data summarizes activity from 2010, we can learn a lot about behavior, choices and safety results.  There’s never an inappropriate time to share safety messages with drivers about obeying traffic laws, using seatbelts and avoiding risk taking (i.e. driving while impaired, distracted driving, etc.)

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NHTSA and “Rear view visibility systems”

CarParkingSignA newly issued rule from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) will require newly manufactured, light duty vehicles (under 10,000 pounds GVWR) to meet specific rear-visibility standards.  While motorcylcs and trailers are exempt from the ruling, vans, SUVs, sedans, light duty trucks and buses will be subject to the regulation.

Highlights from the Washington Post article (click HERE) include:

  • The rearview cameras must give drivers a field of vision measuring at least 10 by 20 feet directly behind the vehicle. The system must also meet other requirements including dashboard image size, lighting conditions and display time.
  • Backup accidents involving light vehicles cause an average of 210 deaths and 15,000 injuries a year, and victims often are children and the elderly, the government said. Children under 5 years old account for 31 percent of the deaths each year, while adults 70 years of age and older represent about 26 percent.
  • NHTSA said the new rule, required in the Cameron Gulbransen Kids Transportation Safety Act, will save between 13 to 15 lives per year and prevent as many as 1,125 injuries annually. The measure, signed into law in 2008, was named for a 2-year-old Long Island boy whose pediatrician father backed over him in their driveway in 2002.
  • In the United States, 44 percent of 2012 models came with rear cameras standard, and 27 percent had them as options, according to the automotive research firm Edmunds.

As long ago as 1993, NHTSA had sponsored studies showing “…a disproportionate effect of backup accidents on child victims. One report explored sensors and cameras as possible solutions, noting the accidents ‘involve slow closing speeds and, thus, may be preventable.'”

SafetyZone-Safety GoalThis month’s Ten-Minute Training Topic is titled “Avoid Backing” since the best way to avoid backing-up collisions is to never operate in reverse mode.

The driver handouts, manager supplemental report and the power point slide shows offer practical tips to help remind drivers of their need to be vigilant while driving — especially when backing.

The next big question remains…will this new rear-view camera standard give automakers leverage to push for the end of side-view mirrors?  (replacing them with live, closed circuit TV looking down both sides of the vehicle?)  Side mirrors create a lot of cabin noise, reduce fuel economy and still have large “blind spots” where most divers can’t see.

Connected Cars

Driving and Vision Disorders

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) offers many resources for a wide range of safety concerns.

Here is an example of one of their latest videos:

You can find many more video based resources at NHTSA’s You Tube page — http://www.youtube.com/user/USDOTNHTSA

 

This Thanksgiving, Be Thankful for Your Seat Belt

NOTE: A special thank you to NHTSA for supplying this article as a free-use promotion of safe driving around the Thanksgiving holiday.

Another traffic pic“Thanksgiving is one of the great American holidays that involves a lot of travel. Family and friends from across the country or just across town take to the roads to visit together and celebrate, making it one of the busiest travel times of the year.

But the excitement and hustle and bustle of the holiday can be major distractions for those on the road, and all too often those distractions have deadly consequences.

That’s why it’s important to do the single most effective thing to save your life in the event of a traffic crash: wear a seat belt.

soc-07-thanks-buckle_turkey_lo-72-enThis Thanksgiving, SafetyFirst, highway safety advocates, insurers, and law enforcement officers across the country are spreading the message and  reminding travelers to always wear their seat belts with the Buckle Up America – Every Trip, Every Time campaign.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), seat belts saved almost 12,000 lives nationwide in 2011. In fact, research shows that with proper seat belt use, the risk of fatal injury to front seat passengers is reduced by 45 percent, and the risk of moderate to serious injury is reduced by 50 percent.

Since such a simple step can be the difference between life and death, one would think everyone would always wear their seat belts while in a car. Yet that is not the case. Too many people still don’t use these lifesavers, and unfortunately, deaths which could have been prevented keep occurring every day.

In 2011, 52 percent of the people killed in all traffic crashes were NOT wearing seat belts at the time of the crash. During the 2011 Thanksgiving holiday weekend alone, 50 percent of those killed were unbelted at the time of the crash.

Nighttime is an especially dangerous time for deadly traffic crashes. Nationally in 2011, 62 percent of the 10,135 passenger vehicle occupants who were killed in nighttime crashes were not wearing their seat belts, compared to 43 percent during the daytime hours. During the 2011 Thanksgiving holiday, 57 percent of the passenger vehicle occupants killed in nighttime crashes were unbelted, while only 40 percent of daytime fatalities were unbelted.

These deaths are unnecessary and preventable. Be careful on the roads and don’t let this Thanksgiving end in tragedy. Insist on proper seat belt use by everyone you travel with.

Remember: Buckle Up America – Every Trip, Every Time.

You’ll be thankful you did.

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Everyone is a Pedestrian

Whether “my other car is a Mack Truck” or something a bit smaller, we all spend time walking from place to place, too.  Pedestrian safety is a big issue since vehicles and pedestrians interact at intersections, crosswalks and other places.

The term “pedestrian” actually includes more than just people walking along the road — according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), A pedestrian is 490x300-peds…any person on foot, walking, running, jogging, hiking, sitting or lying down who is involved in a motor vehicle traffic crash.

NHTSA recently released a revised Traffic Safety Fact sheet on Pedestrians, and launched a new web site to help educate about the opportunity to prevent injuries (http://www.nhtsa.gov/nhtsa/everyoneisapedestrian/index.html)

Consider that:

In 2011, 4,432 pedestrians were killed and an estimated 69,000 were injured in
traffic crashes in the United States. On average, a pedestrian was killed every two
hours and injured every eight minutes in traffic crashes.  (Traffic Safety Facts: Pedestrians, August, 2013)

Clearly, we have a responsibility to raise our collective awareness of the issues that lead to these injuries and deaths in order to prevent them.

Interesting factoids about pedestrian collisions recorded during 2011 (most recent complete year of stats available):

  • PEDESTRIAN-SIGN2Pedestrian deaths accounted for 14 percent of all traffic fatalities
  • Almost three-fourths (73%) of pedestrian fatalities occurred in an urban setting versus a rural setting.
  • Over two-thirds (70%) of pedestrian fatalities occurred at non-intersections versus at intersections.
  • Eighty-eight percent of pedestrian fatalities occurred during normal weather conditions (clear/cloudy), compared to rain, snow and foggy conditions.
  • A majority of the pedestrian fatalities, 70 percent, occurred during the nighttime (6 p.m. – 5:59 a.m.)
  • The 4,432 pedestrian fatalities in 2011 were an increase of 3 percent from 2010
  • Older pedestrians (age 65+) accounted for 19 percent (844) of all pedestrian fatalities and an estimated 10 percent (7,000) of all pedestrians injured
  • The fatality rate for older pedestrians (age 65+) was 2.04 per 100,000 population – higher than the rate for all the other ages
  • Over one-fifth (21%) of all children between the ages of 10 and 15 who were killed in traffic crashes were pedestrians.
  • Children age 15 and younger accounted for 6 percent of the pedestrian fatalities in 2011 and 19 percent of all pedestrians injured in traffic crashes
  • Thirty-two percent of the pedestrian fatalities occurred in crashes between 8 p.m. and 11:59 p.m.
  • The highest percentage of weekday and weekend fatalities also occurred between 8 p.m. and 11:59 p.m. (27% and 39%, respectively).

What can we do to prevent injuries and fatalities?

NHTSA offers a series of recommendations:

For Pedestrians:

  • Walk on a sidewalk or path whenever they are available.
  • If there is no sidewalk or path available, walk facing traffic (on the left side of the road) on the shoulder, as far away from traffic as possible. Keep alert at all times; don’t be distracted by electronic devices, including radios, smart phones and other devices that take your eyes (and ears) off the road environment.
  • Be cautious night and day when sharing the road with vehicles. Never assume a driver sees you (he or she could be distracted, under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, or just not seeing you). Try to make eye contact with drivers as they approach you to make sure you are seen.
  • Be predictable as a pedestrian. Cross streets at crosswalks or intersections whenever possible. This is where drivers expect pedestrians.
  • If a crosswalk or intersection is not available, locate a well-lit area, wait for a gap in traffic that allows you enough time to cross safely, and continue to watch for traffic as you cross.
  • Stay off of freeways, restricted-access highways and other pedestrian-prohibited roadways.
  • Be visible at all times. Wear bright clothing during the day, and wear reflective materials or use a flash light at night.
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs when walking; they impair your abilities and judgment too.

For Drivers:

  • Look out for pedestrians everywhere, at all times. Very often pedestrians are not walking where they should be.
  • Be especially vigilant for pedestrians in hard-to-see conditions, such as nighttime or in bad weather.
  • Slowdown and be prepared to stop when turning or otherwise entering a crosswalk.
  • Always stop for pedestrians in crosswalks and stop well back from the crosswalk to give other vehicles an opportunity to see the crossing pedestrians so they can stop too.
  • Never pass vehicles stopped at a crosswalk. They are stopped to allow pedestrians to cross the street.
  • Never drive under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.
  • Follow the speed limit, especially around pedestrians.
  • Follow slower speed limits in school zones and in neighborhoods where there are children present. 

Did you know that fact sheets on other topics are available from the National Center for Statistics and Analysis?  Topics cover issues like: Alcohol-Impaired Driving, Bicyclists and Other Cyclists, Children, Large Trucks, Motorcycles, Occupant Protection, Older Population, Rural/Urban Comparisons, School Transportation-Related Crashes, Speeding, State Alcohol Estimates, State Traffic Data, and Young Drivers.

Detailed data on motor vehicle traffic crashes are published annually in Traffic Safety Facts: A Compilation of Motor Vehicle Crash Data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System and the General Estimates System.

The fact sheets and annual Traffic Safety Facts report can be accessed online at www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/CATS/index.aspx.