Car accident

A car accident is a road traffic incident which usually involves one road vehicle colliding with, either another vehicle, another road user, or a stationary roadside object, and which may result in injury or property damage.

Terminology

Phrases used to describe accidents include: "auto accident", "car crash", "car smash", "car wreck", "fender bender", "motor vehicle accident (MVA)", "personal injury collision (PIC)", "road accident", "road traffic accident (RTA)", "road traffic collision (RTC)", "road traffic incident (RTI)", "smash-up", "bingle" [ [http://www.amazingaustralia.com.au/language.htm Australian Slang] at amazingausatralia.com.au and [http://www.itchy-feet.com.au/australia/slang.html Australian slang] at itchy-feet.com.au] and "traffic collision".

As the factors involved in collisions have become better understood, some organisations have begun to avoid the term "accident," as the word can suggest an unpredictable, unpreventable event. Although these events are rare in terms of the number of vehicles and drivers on the road, addressing the contributing factors can reduce the likelihood of collisions. For example, proper signing can decrease driver error and thereby reduce crash frequency by a third or more [ Desktop Reference for Crash Reduction Factors Report No. FHWA-SA-07-015, Federal Highway Administration September, 2007 http://www.ite.org/safety/issuebriefs/Desktop%20Reference%20Complete.pdf ] . That is why these organisations prefer the term "crash," "collision," or some other term.

However, treating these incidents as anything other than "accidents" has been criticised for holding back safety improvements, because a culture of blame may discourage the involved parties from fully disclosing the facts, and thus frustrate attempts to address the real root cause.cite news | publisher = The Times | date = 11 March 1969 | title = Cars And Drivers Accident prevention instead of blame | first = Geoffrey | last = Charles | note = Quoting from JJ Leeming in Accidents and their prevention: "'Blame for accidents seems to me to be at best irrelevant and at worst actively harmful.' " ... "Much of the Leeming case is that by attributing blame and instituting proceedings against the motorist, the law virtually guarantees that none of the participants will be wholly truthful, so that the factors that really led to the accident are never discovered." ]

Background

Road crashes, causing death, injury, and damage have always happened. History tells of many notable historic personalities who were the victim of such incidents. Louis IV of France died in 954 after falling from his horse, as did at least two kings of England: William I (William the Conqueror) in 1087 and William III in 1702. Handel was seriously injured in a carriage crash in 1752.cite book| last = Dent| first = Edward Joseph| title = Handel| origdate = 2004-06-17| publisher = R A Kessinger Publishing| id = ISBN 1-4191-2275-4| pages = 63]

The British road engineer J. J. Leeming, compared the statistics for fatality rates in Great Britain, for transport incidents both before and after the introduction of the motor vehicle, for journeys, including those by water, which would now be undertaken by motor vehicle: For the period 1863–1870 there were: 470 fatalities per million of population (76 on railways, 143 on roads, 251 on water); for the period 1891–1900 the corresponding figures were: 348 (63, 107, 178); for the period 1931–1938: 403 (22, 311, 70) and for the year 1963: 325 (10, 278, 37). Leeming concluded that the data showed that "travel accidents may even have been more frequent a century ago than they are now, at least for men".

Irish scientist Mary Ward died on 31st August 1869 when she fell out of her cousins' steam car and was run over. She is believed to have been the world's first motor vehicle accident victim.

In the United States the calculable costs of motor-vehicle crashes are wage and productivity losses, medical expenses, motor vehicle damage, and employers’, uninsured costs administrative expenses. (See the definitions for a description of what is included in each component.) The costs of all these items for each death (not each fatal crash), injury (not each injury crash), and property damage crash was:Average Economic Cost per Death, Injury, or Crash, 2006: Nonfatal; Disabling Injury; $55,000; Property Damage Crash (including nondisabling injuries) $8,200;Death; $1,210,000; Expressed on a per death basis, the cost of all motor vehicle crashes—i.e. fatal, nonfatal injury, and property damage—was $5,800,000. This includes the cost of one death, 197 property damage crashes (including minor injuries, 54 nonfatal disabling injuries). This average may be used to estimate the motor vehicle crash costs for a state provided that there are at least 10 deaths and only one or two occurred in each fatal crash. If fewer than 10 deaths, estimate the costs of deaths, nonfatal disabling injuries, and property damage crashes separately.

Defined in sections 2.3.4 through 2.3.6 of the Manual on Classification of Motor Vehicle Traffic Accidents (7th Edition) ANSI Standard D16.1-2007 are defined by severity motor vehicle injuries Estimates are given here of the costs by severity of injuries. http://www2.nsc.org/lrs/statinfo/estcost.htm

Road incidents result in the deaths of an estimated 1.2 million people worldwide each year, and injure about forty times this number ( [http://www.who.int/features/2004/road_safety/en/ WHO, 2004] ).

Contributing factors

Many jurisdictions require the collection and reporting of road traffic incident statistics. Such data enables figures for deaths, personal injuries, and possibly property damage to be produced, and correlated against a range of circumstances. Analysis of this data may allow incident clusters and incident causes to be identified.An early study by J. J. Leeming, a British road engineer, compared the circumstances around road deaths as reported in various American states (before the widespread introduction of 55 mph speed limits and drink-driving laws):cite book | title = Road Accidents: Prevent or Punish? | first = J.J. | last = Leeming | year = 1969 | isbn = 0-304-93213-2 | publisher = Cassell ]

'They took into account thirty factors which it was thought might affect the death rate. Among these were included the annual consumption of wine, of spirits and of malt beverages — taken individually — the amount spent on road maintenance, the minimum temperature, certain of the legal measures such as the amount spent on police, the number of police per 100,000 inhabitants, the follow-up programme on dangerous drivers, the quality of driver testing, and so on. The thirty factors were finally reduced to six on elimination of those which were found to have small or negligible effect. The final six were:

* (a) The percentage of the total state highway mileage that is rural.
* (b) The percent increase in motor vehicle registration.
* (c) The extent of motor vehicle inspection.
* (d) The percentage of state-administered highway that is surfaced.
* (e) The average yearly minimum temperature.
* (f) The income per capita.

'These are placed in descending order of importance. These six accounted for 70% of the variations in the rate.'

A 1985 study by K. Rumar, using British and American crash reports as data, found that 57% of crashes were due solely to driver factors, 27% to combined roadway and driver factors, 6% to combined vehicle and driver factors, 3% solely to roadway factors, 3% to combined roadway, driver, and vehicle factors, 2% solely to vehicle factors and 1% to combined roadway and vehicle factors.cite web | last = Harry Lum & Jerry A. Reagan | title = Interactive Highway Safety Design Model: Accident Predictive Module | publisher = Public Roads Magazine | date = Winter 1995 | url = http://www.tfhrc.gov/pubrds/winter95/p95wi14.htm ]

Driver behaviour

A 1985 report based on British and American crash data, found that driver error, intoxication and other human factors contribute wholly or partially to about 93% of crashes.

Most British drivers who responded to an RAC survey, considered themselves to be "good" drivers. cite web | title = I'm a good driver: you're not! | publisher = Drivers.com | url = http://drivers.com/article/157 | date = 2000-02-11 ] One survey of drivers reported that they thought the key elements were:
* controlling a car including a good awareness of the car's size and capabilities
* reading and reacting to road conditions, weather, road signs and the environment
* alertness, reading and anticipating the behaviour of other drivers.

Although proficiency in these skills is taught and tested as part of the driving exam, a 'good' driver can still be at a high risk of accidents because:

"the feeling of being confident in more and more challenging situations is experienced as evidence of driving ability, and that 'proven' ability reinforces the feelings of confidence. Confidence feeds itself and grows unchecked until something happens – a near-miss or an accident".

Professor Smeed observed that drivers balance risks as they drive, leading road authorities to attempt to reduce the consequences of mishaps through road design.Fact|date=March 2008 As traffic levels have increased, accompanied by more interventions by planners and road safety teams, accident levels have reduced.Fact|date=March 2008

Accompanying changes to road designs have been wide-scale adoptions of rules of the road alongside law enforcement policies that included drink-driving laws, setting of speed limits, and speed enforcement systems such as speed cameras. Some countries' driving tests have been expanded to test a new driver's behaviour during emergencies, and their hazard perception.

There are demographic differences in accident rates. For example, although young people tend to have good reaction times, disproportionately more young male drivers feature in accidents,cite web | format = PDF | url = http://www.rospa.com/roadsafety/conferences/congress2006/proceedings/day2/thew.pdf | title =
Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents Conference Proceedings | first = Rosemary | last = Thew | publisher = Driving Standards Agency | year = 2006 | note = Most at risk are young males between 17 and 25 years
] with researchers observing that many exhibit behaviours and attitudes to risk that can place them in more hazardous situations than other road users. cite web | url = http://www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/roadsafety/research/rsrr/theme2/pdfgoodbadtalenteddriver.pdf | format = PDF | publisher = Transport Research Laboratory | edition = Road Safety Research Report No. 74 | title = The Good, the Bad and the Talented: Young Drivers' Perspectives on Good Driving and Learning to Drive | month = January | year = 2007 | accessdate = 2008-01-04 ] This gets reflected by actuaries when they set insurance rates for different age groups, partly based on their age, sex, and choice of vehicle. Older drivers with slower reactions would be expected to be involved in more accidents, but this has not been the case as they tend to drive less and, apparently, more cautiously.cite web | url = http://www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/roadsafety/research/rsrr/theme3/forecastingolderdriveraccide4767 | title = forecasting older driver's accident rates | publisher = Department for Transport ] Attempts to impose traffic policies can be complicated by local circumstances and driver behaviour. In 1969 Leeming warned that there is a balance to be struck when "improving" the safety of a road:

It can safely be said that many places which look dangerous do not have accidents, or very few. Conversely, a location that does not look dangerous may have a high crash frequency. The reason for this is simple. If drivers perceive a location as hazardous, they take more care and there are no accidents. Accidents happen when hazardous road or traffic conditions are not obvious at a glance, or where the conditions are too complicated for the limited human machine to perceive and react in the time and distance available.

This phenomena has been observed in risk compensation research, where the predicted reductions in accident rates have not occurred after legislative or technical changes. One study observed that the introduction of improved brakes resulted in more aggressive driving, [ cite book | last = Sagberg, Fosser, & Saetermo | title = An investigation of behavioural adaptation to airbags and antilock brakes among taxi drivers | publication = Accident Analysis and Prevention | edition = 29 | page = 293–302 | year = 1997 ] and another argued that compulsory seat belt laws have not been accompanied by a clearly-attributed fall in overall fatalities. [cite web | format = PDF | title = The efficacy of seat belt legislation | last = Adams | first = John | publisher = SAE Transactions | year = 1982 | url = http://www.geog.ucl.ac.uk/~jadams/PDFs/SAE%20seatbelts.pdf ]

In the 1990s, Hans Monderman was amongst those who had studied driver behaviour, and realised that signs and regulations had an adverse effect on a driver's ability to interact safely with other road users. Monderman found, using his shared space principles, which had their roots in the principles of the woonerven of the 1970s, that the removal of highway clutter, and allowing motor vehicle users and other road users to mingle with equal priority, freed drivers to be able to recognise environmental clues, and, relying on their cognitive skills alone, traffic speeds were radically reduced—resulting in lower levels of road casualties and lower levels of congestion. [cite paper |title=Streets ahead |author=Ben Hamilton-Baillie |date=Autumn 2005 |publisher=Countryside Voice |url=http://www.hamilton-baillie.co.uk/papers/Countryside_Voice1.pdf |accessdate=2008-03-10|format=PDF]

peed choice

The U.S. Department of transportation's "Federal Highway Administration" have a webpage documenting a review of speed research.cite web |title= Synthesis of Safety Research Related to Speed and Speed Limits| publisher=U.S. Department of Transportation |url=http://www.tfhrc.gov/safety/speed/speed.htm |accessdate=2008-03-05] The summary states:
* That the evidence shows that the risk of having a crash is increased both for vehicles travelling slower than the average speed, and for those travelling above the average speed.
* That the risk of being injured increases exponentially with speeds much faster than the median speed.
* That the severity of a crash depends on the vehicle speed change at impact.
* That there is limited evidence that suggests that lower speed limits result in lower speeds on a system wide basis.
* That most crashes related to speed involve speed too fast for the conditions.
* That more research is needed to determine the effectiveness of traffic calming.

On a webpage titled "The biggest killer on our roads", the "Road and Traffic Authority" (RTA) of the Australian state of New South Wales (NSW), state that speeding (by which they mean travelling too fast for the prevailing conditions, in addition to speed above the specified speed limit [cite web |title=Problem definition and countermeasures |url=http://www.rta.nsw.gov.au/roadsafety/speedandspeedcameras/problemdefinitionandcountermeasures.html |publisher=NSW Roads and Traffic Authority |accessdate=2008-05-20] ) is a factor in about 40 per cent of road deaths.cite web |title=The biggest killer on our roads |publisher=NSW Roads and Traffic Authority |url=http://www.rta.nsw.gov.au/roadsafety/speedandspeedcameras/index.html |accessdate=2008-03-05] On the same webpage the RTA also state that "speeding increases the risk of a crash and the severity of the crash outcome". On another webpage, the RTA qualify their claims by referring to one specific piece of research from 1997, and stating "research has shown that the risk of a crash causing death or injury increases rapidly, even with small increases above an appropriately set speed limit."cite web |title=Speeding research |publisher=NSW Roads and Traffic Authority |url=http://www.rta.nsw.gov.au/roadsafety/speedandspeedcameras/speedingresearch.html |accessdate=2008-03-05]

The contributory factor report in the official British road casualty statistics show for 2006, that "exceeding speed limit" (known as "speeding" in the UK) was a contributory factor in 5% of all casualty crashes (14% of all fatal crashes), and that "travelling too fast for conditions" was a contributory factor in 11% of all casualty crashes (18% of all fatal crashes). [cite web |title=Road Casualties Great Britain: 2006 |publisher=UK Department for Transport |url=http://www.dft.gov.uk/162259/162469/221412/221549/227755/rcgb2006v1.pdf |accessdate=2008-03-05|format=PDF]

Driver impairment

A road user's capability is affected by the physical and mental ability to assess conditions and respond quickly. Studiescite web | url = http://www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/roadsafety/research/rsrr/theme3/ | title = Research projects, Theme 3: Impairment | edition = Policy, guidance and research | publisher = UK Department for Transport | accessdate = 2008-01-01 ] have established some common conditions that impair this judgement, including:

* poor eyesight and/or physical impairment, with many jurisdictions setting simple sight tests and/or requiring appropriate vehicle modifications before being allowed to drive;
* old age, with some jurisdictions requiring driver retesting for reaction speed and eyesight after a certain age;
* Fatigue;
* excessive alcohol, with simple blood-alcohol limits enforced through drink-driving laws (although some level of impairment may occur below the legal limit). See also: alcohol-related traffic crashes in the United States;
* drug use - including some prescription drugs, over the counter drugs (notably antihistamines, opioids and muscarinic antagonists), and illegal drugs.

Several conditions can work together to create a much worse situation, for example:
* combining low doses of alcohol and cannabis has a more severe effect on driving performance than either cannabis or alcohol in isolation,cite web | url = http://www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/roadsafety/research/newsletters/roadsafetypart1alcoholdrugsa4708#TopOfPage
title = Road Safety Part 1: Alcohol, drugs, ageing & fatigue | date = Spring 2003 | edition = Research summary, TRL Report 543 | publisher = UK Department for Transport | accessdate = 2008-01-01
] or
* taking recommended doses of several drugs together, which individually will not cause impairment, may combine to bring on drowsiness or other impairment. This could be more pronounced in an elderly person whose renal function is less efficient than a younger person's.cite web | url = http://www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/roadsafety/research/newsletters/roadsafetypart1alcoholdrugsa4708#TopOfPage
title = Road Safety Part 1: Alcohol, drugs, ageing & fatigue | date = Spring 2003 | edition = Research summary, Transport Research Laboratory Road Safety Report No. 24 | publisher = UK Department for Transport | accessdate = 2008-01-01
]

Thus there are situations when a person may be impaired, but still legally allowed to drive, and becomes a potential hazard to themselves and other road users. Pedestrians or cyclists are affected in the same way and can similarly jeopardise themselves or others when on the road.

Research suggests that the driver's attention is affected by distracting sounds such as conversations and operating a mobile phone while driving. Many jurisdictions now restrict or outlaw the use of some types of phone within the car. Recent research conducted by British scientists suggests that music can also have an effect; classic music is considered to be calming, yet too much could relax the driver to a condition of distraction. On the other hand, hard-rock may encourage the driver to step on the acceleration pedal, thus creating a potentially dangerous situation on the road. [ [http://www.infoniac.com/science/hard-rock-and-classic-music-could-lead-to-road-accidents.html Hard-Rock and Classic Music Could Lead to Road Accidents, New Survey Says] ]

Road design

A 1985 US study showed that about 34% of serious crashes had contributing factors related to the roadway or its environment. Most of these crashes also involved a human factor. The road or environmental factor was either noted as making a significant contribution to the circumstances of the crash, or did not allow room to recover. In these circumstances it is frequently the driver who is blamed rather than the road; those reporting the accident have a tendency to overlook the human factors involved, such as the subtleties of design and maintenance that a driver could fail to observe or inadequately compensate for.cite book | name = Human Factors for Highway Engineers | last = Ray Fuller, Jorge A. Santos | url = http://books.google.com/books?hl=en&id=I3dl6bJZK9cC&dq | page = 14 | year = 2002 | isbn = 0080434126, 9780080434124 | publisher = Emerald ]

[

Guardrails, median barriers, or other physical objects can help reduce the consequences of an accident or minimize damage.]

Research has shown that careful design and maintenance, with well-designed intersections, road surfaces, visibility and traffic control devices, can result in significant improvements in accident rates. Individual roads also have widely differing performance in the event of an impact. In Europe there are now EuroRAP tests that indicate how "self-explaining" and forgiving a particular road and its roadside would be in the event of a major incident.

In the UK research has shown that investment in a safe road infrastructure programme could yield a ⅓ reduction in road deaths saving as much as £6billion per year cite web|url=http://www.saferoaddesign.com/media/1752/bookletweb.pdf |title=Getting Ahead: Returning Britain to European leadership in road casualty reduction |accessdate=2008-10-01 |last=Hill|first=Joanne |format=PDF |publisher=Campaign for Safe Road Design ] . A consortium of 13 major road safety stakeholders have formed the Campaign for Safe Road Design which is calling on the UK Government to make safe road design a national transport priority cite web|url=http://www.saferoaddesign.com/media/2024/safe%20roads%20final.doc|title=SAFE ROAD DESIGN TO SAVE UK £6BN EVERY YEAR|accessdate=2008-10-01 |format=Word DOC |publisher=Campaign for Safe Road Design ] .

Vehicle design and maintenance

A well-designed and well-maintained vehicle, with good brakes, tires and well-adjusted suspension will be more controllable in an emergency and thus be better equipped to avoid collisions. Some mandatory vehicle inspection schemes include tests for some aspects of road worthiness, such as the UK's MOT test or German TÜV conformance inspection.

The design of vehicles has also evolved to improve protection after collision, both for vehicle occupants and for those outside of the vehicle. Much of this work was led by automotive industry competition and technological innovation, leading to measures such as Saab's safety cage and reinforced roof pillars of 1946, Ford´s 1956 "Lifeguard" safety package, and Saab and Volvo's introduction of standard fit seatbelts in 1959. Other initiatives were accelerated as a reaction to consumer pressure, after publications such as Ralph Nader's 1965 book "Unsafe at Any Speed" accused motor manufacturers of indifference towards safety.In the early 1970s British Leyland started an intensive programme of vehicle safety research, producing a number of prototype experimental safety vehicles demonstrating various innovations for occupant and pedestrian protection such as: air bags, anti-lock brakes, impact-absorbing side-panels, front and rear head restraints, run-flat tyres, smooth and deformable front-ends, impact-absorbing bumpers, and retractable headlamps. [cite web
title=Safety First: the SSV/SRV cars
work=AROnline
publisher=Keith Adams
url=http://www.austin-rover.co.uk/index.htm?researchsrvf.htm
] Design has also been influenced by government legislation, such as the Euro NCAP impact test.

Common features designed to improve safety include: thicker pillars, safety glass, interiors with no sharp edges, stronger bodies, other active or passive safety features, and smooth exteriors to reduce the consequences of an impact with pedestrians.

The UK Department for Transport publish road casualty statistics for each type of collision and vehicle through its Road Casualties Great Britain report. [cite web | url = http://www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/statistics/datatablespublications/accidents/ | title = Annual transport accidents and casualties | publisher = UK Department for Transport | accessdate = 2008-01-01 ] These statistics show a ten to one ratio of in-vehicle fatalities between types of car. In most cars, occupants have a 2–8% chance of death in a two-car collision.

At the other extreme, motorcyclists have little protection other than their clothing; this difference is reflected in the casualty statistics, where they are more than twice as likely to suffer severely after a collision. In 2005 there were 198,735 road crashes with 271,017 reported casualties on roads in Great Britain. This included 3,201 deaths (1.1%) and 28,954 serious injuries (10.7%) overall.Of these casualties 178,302 (66%) were car users and 24,824 (9%) were motorcyclists, of whom 569 were killed (2.3%) and 5,939 seriously injured (24%). [cite book | url = http://www.dft.gov.uk/162259/162469/221412/221549/227864/227892/roadcasualtiesingreatbritain5108 | publisher = Office of National Statistics | edition = Transport Statistics Bulletin | year = 2005 | title = Road Casualties in Great Britain, Main Results | accessdate = 2008-01-01 ]

Research has shown that, across all collision types, it is less likely that seat belts were worn in collisions involving death or serious injury, rather than light injury; wearing a seat belt reduces the risk of death by about two thirds.cite book | title = Trends in Fatal Car Accidents: Analyses of data | work = Project Report PPR172 | publisher = Transport Research Laboratory | month = February | year = 2007 | last = Broughton & Walter ] Seat belt use is controversial, with notable critics such as Professor John Adams suggesting that their use may lead to a net increase in road casualties due to a phenomenon known as risk compensation. [cite web
title=The Hidden Danger of Seat Belts
author=David Bjerklie
date=2006-11-30
publisher=Time Inc
url=http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1564465,00.html
accessdate=2008-02-26
]

Some types of crash tend to have more serious consequences; rollovers have become more common in recent years, perhaps due to the increase in popularity of taller SUVs, people carriers and minivans which have more top weight than standard passenger cars. Rollovers can be fatal, especially if the occupants are ejected because they were not wearing seat belts (83% of ejections during rollovers were fatal when the driver did not wear a seat belt, compared to 25% when they did). After a new design of Mercedes Benz notoriously failed a 'moose test' (sudden swerving to avoid an obstacle), some manufacturers enhance suspension using stability control linked to an anti-lock braking system in order to reduce the likelihood of rollover. After retrofitting these systems to its models in 1999–2000, Mercedes saw its models feature in fewer crashes [ Citation | title = Fahrunfalle: Dank ESP verunglucken Mercedes-Personenwagen seltener (in German) | url=http://www.whnet.com/4x4/pix/esp_stat.jpg| accessdate = 2007-12-28 | publisher = Mercedes Benz | format = Graph of accident share | quote = Road accidents are rare with ESP Mercedes passenger cars ]

Now about 40% of new US vehicles, mainly the SUVs, vans and pickup trucks that are more susceptible to rollover, are being produced with a lower center of gravity and enhanced suspension with stability control linked to its anti-lock braking system in order to reduce the risk of rollover, and meet US federal requirements that will mandate anti-rollover technology by September 2011.Citation | title = U.S. to Require Anti-Rollover Technology on New Cars by 2012 | url=http://www.insurancejournal.com/news/national/2006/09/15/72448.htm | accessdate = 2007-12-28 | publisher = Insurance Journal | date = 2006-09-15 ]

Death and injury statistics

The ability to deliver prompt medical attention has also improved through improvements in ambulance and rescue equipment, availability of air ambulances, rapid response units, and paramedic training, while design changes have made collisions more survivable. Thus injuries from a collision that once would have been fatal may now be averted, while remote locations may report few accidents but with more fatalities.

For this reason modern accident statistics often focus on reportable injury accidents (which include deaths) rather than reporting on deaths alone. It is also believed that serious accidents are often significantly under-reported, under-recorded and misclassifiedcite book | title = Comparison of hospital and police casualty data: a national study | edition = TRL Report 173 | publisher = Transport Research Laboratory | last = Simpson | first = H F | quote = there may be 2.76 times as many seriously injured casualties than are recorded in the national casualty figures and 1.70 slight casualties ] and that the completeness of reporting may vary over time and between sources. cite web | publisher = British medical Journal | url = http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/333/7558/73 | date = 2006-06-23 | title = Changes in safety on England's roads: analysis of hospital statistics | last = Gill, Goldacre, & Yeates]

Trends in collision statistics

Road toll figures show that car collision fatalities have declined since 1980, with most countries showing a reduction of roughly 50%.

In the United States, fatalities have increased slightly from 40,716 in 1994 to 42,884 in 2003. However, in terms of fatalities per 100 million miles driven, the fatality rate has dropped 16% between 1995 and 2005. Injuries dropped 37% over the same period. (National Traffic Safety Administration, 2006). Fatalities for those aged 16 and older show 55% of 2006 were unrestrained by seat belts and similar devices. [ cite book | title = NCSA Research Note (DOT-HS-810-948) | publisher = US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration |month=May | year=2008]

It has been noted that road fatality trends tend to follow "Smeed's law" (named after R.J. Smeed, its author, and subsequently re-analyzed and confirmed by John Adams. cite web | url = http://www.geog.ucl.ac.uk/~jadams/PDFs/smeed%27s%20law.pdf | format = PDF | first = John | last = Adams | publisher = University College London | title = Smeed's Law : some further thoughts ] ) This is an approximate empirical rule that relates falling injury rates to congestion, as measured by car ownership levels, and is insensitive to other factors.

Common types of collision

Crashes are categorized by what is struck and the direction of impact, or impacts. These are some common crash types, based on the total number that occurred in the U.S.A. in 2005, the percentage of total crashes, and the percentage of fatal crashes: [National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Traffic Safety Facts 2005, 2007, P. 54. http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/TSF2006.PDF]
* Rear impacts (1,824,000 crashes, 29.6% of all US crashes, 5.4 % of US fatal crashes)
* Angle or side impacts (1,779,000 crashes, 28.9% of all US crashes, 20.7% of US fatal crashes)
* Fixed-object crashes (992,000 crashes, 16.1% of US crashes, 31.7% of US fatal crashes)
* Collisions with animals (275,000 crashes, 4.5% of US crashes, 0.4% of fatal crashes)
* Rollovers (141,000 crashes, 2.3% of all US crashes, 10.9% of US fatal crashes)
* Head-on collision (123,000 crashes, only 2.0% of all US crashes, but 10.1% of US fatal crashes)
* Collisions with pedestrians and bicyclists (114,000 crashes, only 1.8% of US crashes, but 13.5% of US fatal crashes)

Note that rollover, head-on, pedestrian and bicyclist crashes combined are only 6.1% of all crashes, but 34.5% of fatal crashes. Since these crashes tend to be severe, preventing them is a high priority for traffic safety officials.

Sometimes the vehicles in the collision can suffer more than one type of impact, such as during a shunt or high-speed spin. This is called a "second harmful event," such as when a vehicle is redirected by the first crash into another vehicle or fixed object.

Backup collisions

Backup collisions happen when a driver reverses the car into an object, person, or other car. Although most cars come equipped with rear view mirrors which are adequate for detecting vehicles behind a car, they are inadequate on many vehicles for detecting small children or objects close to the ground, which fall in the car's blind spot. Large trucks have much larger blind spots that can hide entire vehicles and large adults.

According to research by Kids and Cars – an organization devoted to preventing (non-traffic) motor-vehicle-related deaths and injuries – 49% of the non-traffic, non-crash fatalities involving children under 15 from 2001–2005 were caused by vehicles backing up.

The CDC reported that from 2001–2003, an estimated 7,475 children (2,492 per year) under the age of 15 were treated for automobile back-over incidents.

The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that back-up collisions most often: [ cite book | title = Deaths and Injuries Resulting from Certain Non-Traffic and Non-Crash Events | publisher = US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration |month=May | year=2004]

* occur in residential driveways and parking lots
* involve sport utility vehicles (SUVs) or small trucks
* occur when a parent, relative or someone known to the family is driving
* particularly affect children less than five years old

The driver of the car backing up and hitting an object, a person, or another car is usually considered to be at fault.

Prevention organizations suggest that parents use common sense, and also take safety measures such as installing cross view mirrors, audible collision detectors, rear view video camera and/or some type of reverse backup sensors. Furthermore, safer backing up is done when the driver turns completely around and looks out of the rear window of the car, rather than relying on mirrors. This provides a wider field of vision and better control of the vehicle.

Economic costs

The monetary result of these fatal and nonfatal unintentional injuries amounted to $625.5 billion in 2005. This is equivalent to about $2,100 per capita, or about $5,500 per household. Every American household pays in one way or another, through higher prices for goods and services, or through higher taxes The NSC has records from 1912 through 2005. During these period unintentional-injury deaths per 100,000 population dropped 51% (after adjusting for the classification change in 1948) from 82.4 to 38.1. This drop in the overall rate as the nation's population tripled means that 5,100,000 fewer people died due to accidental causes than there would have been if the rate had not been reduced. Worryingly the motor-vehicle death total was up 1% in 2005. The motor-vehicle death rate per 100,000,000 vehicle-miles was 1.54 in 2005, up 0.7% from the pervious year’s rate (1.53) and down 0.6% from the revised 2003 rate of 1.55. 45,800 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2005, and 2.4 million were injured. http://www.nsc.org/resources/library/report_table_1.aspx

Legal consequences

Car collisions usually carry legal consequences in proportion to the severity of the crash. Nearly all common law jurisdictions impose some kind of requirement that parties involved in a collision (even with only stationary property) must stop at the scene, and exchange insurance or identification information or summon the police. Failing to obey this requirement is referred to as hit and run and is generally a criminal offence. However, most claims are settled without recourse to law. In this case, assuming that both parties carry adequate insurance, the claim is often handled between the two insurers. There may be financial penalties involved, such as an excess or deductible payment and a loss of a no-claims bonus or higher future premiums.

Depending upon the circumstances, parties involved in an incident may face criminal liability, civil liability, or both. Usually, the state starts a criminal prosecution only if someone is severely injured or killed, or if one of the drivers involved was acting illegally or clearly grossly negligent or intoxicated or otherwise impaired at the time the accident occurred. Criminal charges might include driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, driving without due care (UK), assault with a deadly weapon (USA), manslaughter, or murder; penalties range from fines to jail time (USA) to prison time to death (where applicable). It is notable that the penalties for killing and injuring with motor vehicles are often very much less than for other actions with similar outcomes.

As for civil liability, in places where healthcare is mainly provided through private insurance, such as the USA, automobile accident personal injury lawsuits have become the most common type of tort. Because of pre-existing case law, the courts usually need to decide only the factual questions of who is at fault, and their percentage of fault, as well as how much must be paid out in damages to the injured plaintiff by the defendant's insurer.

For lesser offences civil action may result in fines or collecting points that invalidate the driver's licence, through a central government agency. Such complaints may be filed by a police officer, by other witnesses of an incident, or through remote enforcement such as CCTV or speed cameras. Some jurisdictions (notably US states) directly administer fines or suspend licenses imposed by civil or criminal authorities when a driver has violated the rules of the road and thus the terms of a driver's license. In some jurisdictions such administrative penalties may be imposed through quasi-criminal infractions; other jurisdictions do "not" recognize infractions and charge all violations, at a minimum, as misdemeanours or felonies.

Some argue that the effect of a loss or injury due to a crash can be equivalent to that of a victim of crime under criminal law. Several campaigning organisations that provide support mechanisms also seek out an equivalent status within their jurisdictions cite web | title = Government continues to give bereaved and injured road traffic victims fewer rights than to victims of even the most trivial property crimes | publisher = Roadpeace | url = http://www.roadpeace.org/projcamp/govconti.html | accessdate = 2008-01-17 ] or draw attention to particular road safety issues and attitudes with the intention of introducing law reform (e.g. MADD).

Collision prevention

Mechanical systems

Although many crashes are caused by behavior that is difficult to alter, by mechanical failure, or by road conditions, some technical solutions have been proposed that would automatically detect how close the driver is to the car in front and warn the driver or automatically adjust the car's acceleration to prevent the car from getting closer than the distance in which it can safely stop.
* "Parking sensors": These sensors give audible warnings at slow speed if the front or rear of the vehicle approach an object.
*"Sobriety detectors": These interlocks prevent the ignition key from working if the driver breathes into one and it detects significant quantities of alcohol. They have been used by some commercial transport companies, or suggested for use with persistent drink-driving offenders on a voluntary basiscite web | url = http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6V5S-4GSBGX2-1&_user=10&_rdoc=1&_fmt=&_orig=search&_sort=d&view=c&_acct=C000050221&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=10&md5=cbff22840ae86c348e03473388eeadc5 | title = Primary and secondary prevention of drink driving by the use of alcolock device and program: Swedish experiences | publisher = Accident Analysis & Prevention | Edition = Volume 37, Issue 6 | month = November | year = 2005 | accessdate = 2008-01-06 ]
*"Drifting monitors": These devices monitor how close a vehicle is travelling to lane markers and, if it starts to drift toward or over the markers without the turn signal being activated, sounds an alarm.

Policies for avoiding collisions

Reasons suggested for young and inexperienced drivers being more likely to be in an accident include inexperience combined with over-confidence, peer pressure, a desire to show off, and even neurological development arguments.cite news | url = http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A52687-2005Jan31.html | title = Brain Immaturity Could Explain Teen Crash Rate | publisher = Washington Post | date = 2005-02-01 | first = Elizabeth | last = Williamson] It has been noticed that more of these types of serious collision occur at night, when the car has multiple occupants and when seat belt use is less. This has led to some insurance companies and legislatures proposing:

* a "curfew" imposed on young drivers to prevent them driving at night
* an experienced supervisor to chaperone the less experienced driver
* forbidding the carrying of passengers
* zero alcohol tolerance
* raising the standards required for driving instructors and improving the driving test
* vehicle restrictions (e.g. restricting access to 'high performance' vehicles)
* a sign placed on the back of the vehicle (an N- or P-Plate) to notify other drivers of a novice driver
* encouraging good behaviour in the post-test period

To address accidents across all age ranges, some governments have also proposed measures such as:cite web | format = MS Word | url = http://www.audit-commission.gov.uk/roadsafety/downloads/TRLRoadSafetyGoodPracticeInEngland.doc | title = Review of Road Safety Good Practice in English Local Authorities | last = Castle& Kamya-Lukoda | publisher = TRL for Audit Commission |month=July | year=2006]
* addressing the needs of professional drivers
* encouraging employers to reduce work-related road safety risks
* wider adoption of advanced driving courses
* driver rehabilitation courses after serious traffic offences Some countries or states have already implemented some of these ideas. This increased risk for the young is known to the insurance companies, and premiums sometimes reflect that; however, very high premiums for young drivers do not seem to have had a significant impact on the crash statistics.

Recent initiatives by some insurers, such as pay-as-you-drive, have been attempts to incentivise better driving behaviour by rewarding young drivers who make better choices about where and when to drive. They also recognise the benefits of driver training beyond the statutory minimum and often offer premium reductions after completion of a course of advanced driving.

See also

* Defensive driving
* Crash test
* Crash test dummy
* Driver visibility (List of visibility in cars)
* Fatal Accident Reconstruction Team
* Forensic engineering
* In case of emergency (The "ICE" program)
* Lefortovo tunnel
* List of countries by traffic-related death rate
* List of road accidents
* Multiple-vehicle collision
* Pedestrian safety through vehicle design
* Roadside memorial
* Road safety
* Skid mark
* Totaled
* Transportation safety in the United States
* Tram accident
*"Unsafe at Any Speed"
* Vehicle explosion
* Vehicular accident reconstruction
* Vehicle extrication
* Vehicle recovery

Footnotes

External links

* [http://moes-garage.spaces.live.com/photos/cns!4FC3316B3CBDCA99!334/ Early Auto Accidents] Photographs of auto accidents from the 1920s to the 1950s
* [http://www.carcrashmovies.com Car Crashes] Crashes caught on tape.
* [http://www-fars.nhtsa.dot.gov/ U.S. DOT Fatality Analysis Reporting System] FARS
* [http://www.car-accidents.com Car Accident Photos. Accident images and stories]
* [http://damerst.blogspot.com/ The Quiet Horror, a critical column by Doug Damerst]
* [http://www.youngdriverawareness.com/ Hints, tips and awareness of the dangers of inexperienced driving]


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