If you are risk averse, avoid driving on Saturdays in August. According to a recent article in Forbes, those are the most dangerous times to drive. The article is accompanied by a short slide show filled with interesting accident and fatality statistics.
But as Mark Twain was fond of saying, "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics." In reader comments about the article, several people point out that it is not the sheer number of fatalities that is significant but the relative risk. If numbers alone were significant, then motorcycles would be the safest means of transportation since the sheer number of fatalities is low in comparison to autos. As the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety notes: "Risk is characterized by the bad outcomes for a given level of exposure." To determine the risk, it would be more significant to determine the fatality rate in relation to the number of cars on the road at a given time or in relation to the number of miles driven.
That being said, the Forbes article sheds light on an important topic and notes one indisputable and sobering fact: auto accidents kill upwards of 40,000 people each year or about 110 per day, far too many by any yardstick one might care to use. And most accidents and related injuries are attributable to human error: distractions, speeding, drunk driving, failure to use a seat belt, driving too fast for the weather conditions, and failure to keep a safe stopping distance from other vehicles.
If you want to delve into the statistics yourself to learn the relative risk for specific factors such as geography, demographics, or day of the week, try Traffic STATS, an interactive website developed for the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety by the Carnegie Mellon Research department. If that is more involved than you would like to get, John Tesh has collected some interesting data points on relative driving risks from Traffic Stats analysis:
- A cautious 82-year-old woman is more likely to die in a car crash than a risk-taking 16 year old boy. Why? Because the 82 year old is more fragile
- The second most likely group to die in a car accident, after little old ladies, young male drivers between the ages of 16 and 23. Their fatality rate is 4 times higher than average
- Drivers in New England are the safest. They get in the fewest crashes of any region
- The safest passenger in the car? A baby or toddler secured in a car seat during morning rush hour traffic
- The safest vehicle is a school bus
- The most dangerous vehicle is a motorcycle
- The safest driving day is Wednesday. There are the fewest crashes and fatalities
- Saturdays are the deadliest days on the road
- The safest driving month: February
- The deadliest month: October
- And the drivers with the lowest risk of death are adults between 40 and 50 years old