What Causes Crashes? Know Before You Go

It’s estimated that nearly 80 deaths and more than 10,000 injuries could be prevented annually if all vehicles were equipped with tire pressure monitoring systems.

Source: NHTSA, 2001

Americans travel more than 1 trillion miles during the summer months – that’s 10.5 million more miles per month than other months of the year.*

All those miles take a tragic toll. On average, 269 more people die in traffic fatalities each month during the summer than in other months of the year. Of the 25 deadliest days on American roads in the past five years, 20 of them fell during the 101 days from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day, including four of the top five.**

You can survive – and enjoy – the 101 deadliest days on the road. Know the dangers and develop a family-based strategy to stay safe.

* Bureau of Transportation Statistics, 2001
** NHTSA, 1998-2002 data


Improper Use of Restraints

Safety belt use reached an all-time high in 2003, but failure to buckle up by 1 in 5 drivers still contributes heavily to deaths. Children of parents who don’t wear seat belts are at greater risk of dying on the road, being unrestrained themselves.

Child safety seats have reduced child deaths dramatically, but up to 75% of child restraints are improperly installed or used. Parents are moving children out of child safety seats and booster seats too young, with 83% of children ages 4-8 inappropriately restrained in adult seat belts. Children should never ride in the front seat, yet one in three children killed in motor vehicle crashes were riding in the front seat.

More about use of restraints…

Source: NHTSA, Traffic Safety Facts 2003;
Partners for Child Passenger Safety, 2000



Alcohol-related deaths account for 41% of total traffic fatalities or an average of one every 30 minutes. Two of every three children killed in alcohol-related crashes were riding in a car with a driver who had been drinking – but who was not necessarily drunk. Nearly a third of teen drivers who were killed in motor vehicle crashes had been drinking. More than two-thirds of them were not wearing seat belts.

More about the effects of alcohol…

Source: Mothers Against Drunk Driving



Fatigue impairs driving in similar ways as alcohol: It impairs reaction time, vigilance, attention and information processing. In the past five years, 1.35 million drivers involved in a car crash attributed it to drowsiness.

Fatigue-related crashes are likely to be serious and occur on high-speed roads, and the driver often does not attempt to avoid the crash. During summer, families with children were 6 times more likely to drive home from a long day trip while fatigued than people without children – 57% said they are likely to drive when fatigued to get home from a weekend getaway and 59% said they are likely to drive fatigued to get to a destination in one night.

More about driving while fatigued…

Source: NHTSA, March 2003; Progressive.com


Car maintenance

Neglected maintenance leads to 2,600 deaths annually, nearly 100,000 disabling injuries and more than $2 billion in lost wages, medical expenses and property damage. Under-inflating or over-inflating tires can result in serious injuries. Tire care is especially critical in warm weather because long trips, heavy loads, higher speeds and higher temperatures all put additional stress on tires.

More about maintaining your car…

Source: NHTSA, Automotive Aftermarket Industry Assn.
May 19, 2003



Most crashes occur at 40 mph or less, but most fatal crashes occur at top speeds. Speeding creates an economic cost to society of $40.5 billion per year. In 2002, speeding was a contributing factor in 31% of all fatal crashes, and 13,713 lives were lost in speeding-related crashes. At least eight in 10 drivers admit to speeding at least monthly on each road type. Men are 25% more likely to speed than women.

More about the dangers of speeding…

Source: NHTSA 2002, National Safe Driving Test Survey, 2003



More than 1.5 million police-reported crashes involved some kind of driver distraction. Most drivers admit to engaging in one or more activity while driving, including eating (59%), talking on a cell phone (37%) and even reading (14%).* Other common distractions are talking to passengers (81%), changing radio stations or CDs (66%) or dealing with children in the backseat (24%).

Only one in four drivers perceives these behaviors as distracting or dangerous. More than 7 million drivers involved in a crash attribute it to distractions and 292,000 attribute the cause to talking on a cell phone.**

More about driving distractions…

Source: *Mason-Dixon Drive for Life Poll, 2003,
** NHTSA, March 2003, National Survey