Cars injure 841,000 people a year – without crashing


A new Not-in-Traffic Surveillance study sheds light on the numbers and types of injuries that occur as a result of non-crash related accidents, statistics that hadn’t previously been tracked. Annually, auto-related non-traffic accidents are estimated to cause 1,747 deaths and and 841,000 injuries, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which conducted the study.
Here are some of the study findings, as reported by the Consumer Reports Car Blog:

  • More than half of the non-crash fatalities in the study occurred when a vehicle fell on a person who was under it or from unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning
  • About 20 percent of the non-crash injuries involved slamming fingers or other extremities in a car door or trunk, or resulted from overexertion when loading or unloading a vehicle or pushing a disabled vehicle
  • Across all types of tragedies, about one-third of those injured and about half of those killed were not inside the vehicle at the time
  • Other common hazards included vehicle fires, anti-freeze and battery-acid burns, and falling from a vehicle
  • A significant 221 deaths, and 14,000 injuries resulted from pedestrians being backed over by a vehicle

Backovers killed nearly 100 children and injured 2000 in 2007
About twice a week, kids are killed by being run over by a vehicle that is being backed up. Tragically enough, this often occurs in the home driveway with a parent or a relative at the wheel of the car. In 2007, nearly 100 children were killed and 2,000 injured when they were backed over by cars. In fact, one of the primary reasons for the new mandate to track non-traffic related injuries and deaths stems from a 2008 law requiring the tracking of data for incidents in which children are backed over, strangled by power windows or killed from being left in hot vehicles
A child safety advocacy organization called Kids and Cars says such accidents are predictable and preventable. The following video highlights the issue and shows Consumer Report studies on blind zones, which vary by vehicle, ranging from about 12 feet for a sedan to as much as 30 feet for a pickup-truck.

For additional information on back-up blind zones, see The danger of blind zones by Consumer Reports.

The most dangerous times to drive


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. 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