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2006 Status of the Nation's Highways, Bridges, and Transit:
Conditions and Performance
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Chapter 5: Safety Performance

Summary

This chapter describes the safety of highway and transit facilities across the United States. It looks at the number of fatalities and injuries from several different perspectives. For highway safety, this chapter examines fatalities and injuries on different functional systems, the causes of highway-related fatalities, fatalities and injuries by different vehicle groups, and the distribution of crashes by age of passengers. For transit safety, this chapter examines injuries and fatalities by mode and passenger miles of travel.

This chapter describes safety statistics. It does not describe the various programs used by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and its partners to increase highway and transit safety. See Chapter 11 of the 2004 edition of the C&P report for a discussion of such programs.

Exhibit 5-1 compares the key highway and transit statistics discussed in this chapter with the values shown in the last report. The first data column contains the values reported in the 2004 C&P report, which were based on 2002 data. Had any of the 2002 data been subsequently revised, updated values would have been shown in the second column. (Although this column is blank, it has been retained to maintain consistency with the comparable tables in other chapters and to indicate that no revisions have occurred). The third column contains comparable values, based on 2004 data.

Exhibit 5-1
Comparison of Safety Statistics with Those in the 2004 C&P Report
  2002 Data  
  2004 C&P Report Revised 2004 Data
Highway Safety
Number of Fatalities 43,005   42,636
Fatality Rate per 100,000 People 14.94   14.52
Fatality Rate per 100 Million VMT 1.5   1.4
Number of Injuries 2,926,000   2,788,000
Injury Rate per 100,000 People 1,016   950
Injury Rate per 100 Million VMT 102   94
Transit Safety
Number of Fatalities 282   248
Fatalities per 100 Million PMT 0.66   0.55
Number of Injuries 19,367   18,982
Injuries per 100 Million PMT 46   42
Number of Incidents 24,247   20,939
Incidents per 100 Million PMT 57   46

Highway fatalities decreased by 0.86 percent between 2002 (43,005) and 2004 (42,636). Although the number of fatalities has fallen sharply since 1966, when Federal legislation first addressed highway safety, there has been a steady increase in the annual number of fatalities between 1994 and 2004.

In 2004, the fatality rate per 100,000 people was 14.52, down from the 2002 fatality rate of 14.94. The fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled (VMT) declined from 1.51 in 2002 to 1.44 in 2004.

Q and A
Where can I find additional information on fatalities and injuries?
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has posted fatality and injury information on its public Web site at: www.nhtsa.dot.gov/people/ncsa. In addition, there are annual publications that focus on fatalities and injuries in general, along with fact sheets that focus on high-interest areas. The Web site also contains an interactive fatality encyclopedia that enables all national tables to be produced at the State level.

The number of highway injuries declined from 2.93 million in 2002 to 2.79 million in 2004. The injury rate per 100,000 people declined from 1,016 in 2002 to 950 in 2004, and the injury rate per 100 million VMT dropped from 102 in 2002 to 94 in 2004.

Q and A
What do preliminary 2005 traffic fatality data show?
While this report focuses primarily on 2004 data, some 2005 traffic fatality data are available. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has issued a set of Transportation Safety Fact Sheets dated September 2006. The Overview fact sheet indicates that in 2005, 43,443 people died on the Nation's highways, an increase of 1.4 percent from the total number of traffic fatalities in 2004. This fact sheet also indicates an increase in the fatality rate, from 1.44 per 100 million VMT in 2004 to 1.47 per 100 million VMT in 2005. Traffic-related injuries were estimated to have declined from 2.79 million in 2004 to 2.70 million in 2005. The Overview fact sheet can be viewed at http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/pdf/nrd-30/NCSA/TSF2005/OverviewTSF05.pdf.

Public transit in the United States has been and continues to be a highly safe mode of transportation, as evidenced by statistics on incidents, injuries, and fatalities as reported by public transportation agencies for the vehicles they operate directly.

Rail transit vehicles that travel on separate fixed guideway have historically had a lower number of fatalities relative to use than rail transit vehicles that share their guideway with nontransit vehicles. Buses, which travel at slower speeds, have also had low fatalities per 100 million passenger miles traveled (PMT). Total fatalities have fluctuated from 274 in 1995, to 282 in 2002, and 248 in 2004. When adjusted for passenger use, however, the fatality rate per 100 million PMT decreased, falling from 0.77 in 1995, to 0.66 in 2002, to 0.55 in 2004.

Between 2002 and 2004 incidents and injuries both decreased, falling substantially from 2002 to 2003 before rising slightly in 2004. Adjusted for passenger use, however, both incidents and injuries per 100 million PMT declined over both years during this time period. In 2004, there were 20,939 incidents and 18,982 injuries on transit. When adjusted for passenger travel, there were 46 incidents per 100 million PMT and 42 injuries per 100 million PMT on transit in 2004.

Highway Safety Performance

This section describes highway safety performance. It looks at fatalities and injuries on highway functional systems, across vehicle types, and among different segments of the population. It also examines the causes and costs of fatal crashes.

Statistics in this section are drawn from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS). The FARS is maintained by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which has a cooperative agreement with an agency in each State to provide information on all qualifying crashes in that State. Police accident reports, death certificates, and other documents provide data that are tabulated daily and included in the FARS.

The NHTSA publishes an annual Traffic Safety Facts report that comprehensively describes safety characteristics on the surface transportation network.

Overall Fatalities and Injuries

Exhibit 5-2 describes the considerable improvement in highway safety since Federal legislation first addressed the issue in 1966. That year, the fatality rate was 5.50 per 100 million VMT. By 2004, the fatality rate had declined to 1.44 per 100 million VMT. This sharp decline in the fatality rate occurred even as the number of licensed drivers grew by 97 percent.

Exhibit 5-2
Summary of Fatality and Injury Rates, 1966–2004
Year Fatalities Resident Population (Thousands) Fatality Rate per 100,000 Population Licensed Drivers (Thousands) Fatality Rate per 100 Million VMT Injured Injury Rate per 100,000 Population Injury Rate per 100 Million VMT
1966 50,894 196,560 25.89 100,998 5.5      
1968 52,725 200,706 26.27 105,410 5.2      
1970 52,627 205,052 25.67 111,543 4.7      
1972 54,589 209,896 26.01 118,414 4.3      
1974 45,196 213,854 21.13 125,427 3.5      
1976 45,523 218,035 20.88 134,036 3.3      
1978 50,331 222,585 22.61 140,844 3.3      
1980 51,091 227,225 22.48 145,295 3.4      
1982 43,945 231,664 18.97 150,234 2.8      
1984 44,257 235,825 18.77 155,424 2.6      
1986 46,087 240,133 19.19 159,486 2.5      
1988 47,087 244,499 19.26 162,854 2.3 3,416,000 1,397 169
1990 44,599 249,439 17.88 167,015 2.1 3,231,000 1,295 151
1992 39,250 254,995 15.39 173,125 1.7 3,070,000 1,204 137
1994 40,716 260,327 15.64 175,403 1.7 3,266,000 1,255 139
1996 42,065 265,229 15.86 179,539 1.7 3,483,000 1,313 140
1998 41,501 270,248 15.36 184,980 1.6 3,192,000 1,181 121
2000 41,945 282,192 14.86 190,625 1.5 3,189,000 1,130 116
2002 43,005 287,941 14.94 194,296 1.5 2,926,000 1,016 102
2004 42,636 293,655 14.52 198,889 1.4 2,788,000 950 94
Source: Fatality Analysis Reporting System / National Center for Statistics & Analysis, NHTSA.

The number of traffic deaths also decreased between 1966 and 2004. In 1966, there were 50,894 traffic deaths. Fatalities reached their highest point in 1972 (54,598) and then declined sharply following the implementation of a national speed limit, reaching their lowest point in 1992 (39,250). Since then, the number of fatalities has steadily increased; by 2004, the number of traffic deaths had risen to 42,636. Exhibits 5-3 and 5-4 compare the number of fatalities with fatality rates between 1980 and 2004.

Exhibit 5-3: Fatalities, 1980–2004. Bar chart showing plot of fatalities for the years 1980 to 2004. From an initial peak value just above 50,000, the plot trend is downward to a value of about 43,000 in 1983, swinging up to about 48,000 in 1988, curving down to just under 40,000 in 1992, and a gentle swing upward to end at about 43,000 in 2004. Source: Fatality Analysis Reporting System.

Exhibit 5-4: Fatality Rate, 1980–2004. Bar chart showing fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled for the years 1980 to 2004. From an initial peak value of 3.4 incidents in 1980, the plot trend is slightly down to 3.2 in 1981, dropping to 2.75 in 1982 and swinging downward to 1.75 for the years 1992 to 1995. From there the trend swings slightly down to end just below 1.5 in 2004. Source: Fatality Analysis Reporting System.

The number of traffic-related injuries also decreased between 1988 and 2004, from 3,416,000 to 2,788,000; however, like the number of fatalities, injuries increased between 1992 and 1996. The injury rate also declined between 1988 and 2004, the years for which statistics are available. In 1988, the injury rate was 169 per 100 million VMT; by 2004, the number had dropped to 94 per 100 million VMT.

Fatalities by Functional Class

Exhibits 5-5 and 5-6 show the number of fatalities and fatality rates by rural and urban functional system between 1995 and 2004. These exhibits are important in describing the recent increase in fatalities and the distinction between fatalities and the fatality rate.

Exhibit 5-5
Fatalities by Functional System, 1995–2004
Functional System 1995 1997 2000 2002 2004
Rural Areas (under 5,000 in population)
Interstate 2,658 3,040 3,254 3,298 3,246
Other Principal Arterial 4,965 5,394 4,917 4,894 5,012
Minor Arterial 4,406 4,284 4,090 4,467 5,049
Major Collector 6,218 5,920 5,501 6,014 5,552
Minor Collector 1,598 1,723 1,808 2,003 1,801
Local 4,556 4,450 4,414 5,059 4,080
Unknown Rural 48 324 854 161 235
Subtotal Rural 24,449 25,135 24,838 25,896 24,975
Urban Areas (5,000 and over in population)
Interstate 2,177 2,292 2,419 2,482 2,516
Other Freeway and Expressway 1,807 1,296 1,364 1,506 1,656
Other Principal Arterial 5,041 5,420 4,948 5,124 4,811
Minor Arterial 3,732 3,523 3,211 3,218 3,536
Collector 1,213 1,163 1,001 1,151 1,339
Local 3,163 3,064 2,912 3,497 3,303
Unknown Urban 30 71 258 35 220
Subtotal Urban 17,163 16,829 16,113 17,013 17,381
Unknown Rural or Urban 205 49 994 96 280
Total Highway Fatalities 41,817 42,013 41,945 43,005 42,636
Source: Fatality Analysis Reporting System/ National Center for Statistics & Analysis, NHTSA.

Exhibit 5-6
Fatality Rates by Functional System, 1995–2004 (per 100 Million VMT)
Functional System 1995 1997 2000 2002 2004
Rural Areas (under 5,000 in population)
Interstate 1.18 1.26 1.21 1.17 1.21
Other Principal Arterial 2.30 2.35 1.97 1.90 2.08
Minor Arterial 2.82 2.61 2.37 2.52 2.98
Major Collector 3.20 2.92 2.61 2.80 2.76
Minor Collector 3.17 3.26 3.11 3.22 2.99
Local 4.31 3.93 3.46 3.62 3.08
Subtotal Rural 2.58 2.51 2.28 2.29 2.33
Urban Areas (5,000 and over in population)
Interstate 0.63 0.63 0.61 0.60 0.55
Other Freeway and Expressway 1.20 0.81 0.77 0.79 0.79
Other Principal Arterial 1.37 1.40 1.23 1.25 1.06
Minor Arterial 1.28 1.16 0.98 0.94 0.97
Collector 0.98 0.88 0.73 0.80 0.81
Local 1.53 1.48 1.23 1.45 1.33
Subtotal Urban 1.16 1.08 0.95 0.98 0.98
Total Highway Fatality Rate 1.71 1.64 1.48 1.49 1.42
Source: Fatality Analysis Reporting System / National Center for Statistics & Analysis, NHTSA.

As shown in Exhibit 5-5, the overall number of fatalities grew slightly between 1995 and 2004, largely because of deaths on rural roads. Between 1995 and 2004, the number of fatalities on rural roads grew from 24,449 to 24,975 and accounted for 58.6 percent of total 2004 fatalities. At the same time, the number of fatalities on urban roads increased from 17,163 to 17,381. The fatality rate, however, declined on both rural and urban roads. Although the absolute number of fatalities slightly increased, the fatality rate dropped due to a significant increase in the number of VMT.

Exhibit 5-6 reveals that fatality rates declined on every urban functional system between 1995 and 2004. Urban Interstate highways were the safest functional system, with a 0.55 fatality rate in 2004. Other freeways and expressways, however, recorded the sharpest decline in fatality rates. The fatality rate for other urban freeways and expressways in 2004 was about 34.0 percent lower than in 1995.

Fatality rates declined by 9.7 percent on the rural functional system between 1995 and 2004; however, the fatality rate for rural Interstates has remained more constant. The rural Interstate fatality rate in 2004 was more than twice that of urban Interstates, as travel speeds tend to be higher on rural Interstates than urban Interstates.

There were a total of 6,181,000 crashes reported in 2004. Only a small percentage of these crashes, 0.6 percent, were severe enough to result in a fatality, while 69.3 percent of these crashes resulted in property damage only. Exhibit 5-7 describes the number of crashes by severity between 1995 and 2004.

Exhibit 5-7: Crash by Severity, 1995–2004. Set of five pie charts comparing values for three categories of crash severity for selected years. In all charts, property damage only accounts for the greatest portion of crash, namely 66.4 percent in 1995, 67 percent in 1997 and 2000, 68.8 percent in 2002, and 69.3 percent in 2004. Injuries account for 33.1 percent in 1995, 32.4 percent in 1997 and 2000, 30.5 percent in 2002, and 30.1 percent in 2004. Fatalities account for 0.6 percent in all years. Source: Fatality Analysis Reporting System, National Center for Statistics and Analysis, NHTSA.

Highway Fatalities by Crash Type

Exhibit 5-8 displays three types of fatalities by roadway-related crash types that have been identified by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) as focus areas: roadway departures, intersection-related crashes, and pedestrian-related crashes. These categories are not mutually exclusive; the fatalities shown in Exhibit 5-8 can involve a combination of factors—intersection and pedestrian—related, for example-so that some fatalities will appear in more than one category.

Exhibit 5-8
Highway Fatalities by Crash Type, 1995–2004
  1995 1997 2000 2002 2004
Roadway Departures22,675 22,741 23,046 25,412 25,676
Intersection-related9,148 9,093 8,689 9,273 9,117
Pedestrian-related6,526 6,288 5,597 5,630 5,494
Some fatalities may overlap; for example, some intersection-related fatalities may involve pedestrians.

Roadway Departures

In 2004, there were a total of 25,676 fatalities related to a vehicle leaving its lane and crashing. In some cases, the vehicle crossed the centerline and struck another vehicle, hitting it head-on or sideswiping it. In other cases, the vehicle left the roadway and rolled over and/or struck one or more man-made or natural objects (e.g., utility poles, bridge walls, embankments, guardrails, trees, or parked vehicles). Exhibit 5-9 shows roadway departure-related fatalities by functional system. Almost two-thirds of roadway departure-related fatalities occurred on rural roads.

Exhibit 5-9
Roadway Departure-related Fatalities by Functional System, 2004
Functional System Single-vehicle run-off-the-road Other Roadway Departures Total Roadway Departure Fatalities Percent of Total
Rural Areas (under 5,000 in population)
Interstate 1,567 393 1,960 7.6%
Other Principal Arterial 1,297 1,789 3,086 12.0%
Minor Arterial 1,818 1,670 3,488 13.6%
Major Collector 2,617 1,320 3,937 15.3%
Minor Collector 1,027 376 1,403 5.5%
Local 2,517 516 3,033 11.8%
Unknown Rural 133 28 161 0.6%
Subtotal Rural 10,976 6,092 17,068 66.5%
Urban Areas (5,000 and over in population)
Interstate 1,057 247 1,304 5.1%
Other Freeway and Expressway 652 217 869 3.4%
Other Principal Arterial 937 1,034 1,971 7.7%
Minor Arterial 1,003 718 1,721 6.7%
Collector 548 227 775 3.0%
Local 1,341 383 1,724 6.7%
Unknown Urban 54 30 84 0.3%
Subtotal Urban 5,592 2,856 8,448 32.9%
Unknown Rural or Urban 115 45 160 0.6%
Total Highway Fatalities 16,683 8,993 25,676  
Source: Fatality Analysis Reporting System / National Center for Statistics & Analysis, NHTSA.

Rollovers

Exhibit 5-10 displays rollover crash data by vehicle type. Of the 25,676 roadway departure fatalities that occurred in 2004, 41.1 percent involved the rollover of a passenger vehicle. The total number of passenger vehicle occupant fatalities in rollovers has shown a steady increase, from 9,527 in 1997 to 10,553 in 2004 (an increase of 10.8 percent). While the number of occupant fatalities in rollovers among passenger cars decreased slightly, from 4,765 in 1997 to 4,334 in 2004 (a 9.0 percent decrease), the number of occupant fatalities in rollovers among sport utility vehicles (SUVs) nearly doubled from 1,489 in 1997 to 2,920 in 2004 (an increase of 96.1 percent). The number of occupant fatalities in rollovers among pickups for the same period has shown an increase of 4.5 percent (from 2,479 in 1997 to 2,591 in 2004) and among vans a decrease of 9.9 percent (from 768 in 1997 to 692 in 2004).

Exhibit 5-10
Summary of Fatalities and Fatality Rates for Vehicles
Involved in Rollover Crashes, 1997 & 2004
  Fatalities Registered Passenger Vehicles Fatality Rate per 100,000 Registered Vehicles
1997
  Passenger Cars 4,765 124,672,920 3.82
  Vans 768 16,159,473 4.75
  SUVs 1,489 14,531,850 10.25
  Pickup Trucks 2,479 34,314,455 7.22
  Other 26 2,281,692 1.14
  Total 9,527 191,960,390 4.96
2004
  Passenger Cars 4,334 133,275,377 3.25
  Vans 692 18,931,753 3.66
  SUVs 2,920 31,415,143 9.29
  Pickup Trucks 2,591 38,557,291 6.72
  Other 16 1,034,394 1.55
  Total 10,553 223,213,958 4.73
Percent Change 10.8% 16.3%  
Source: Fatality Analysis Reporting System / National Center for Statistics & Analysis, NHTSA.

Among the vehicles that rolled over, the occupant fatality rates for SUVs were the highest, followed by the rates for pickup trucks, vans, and passenger cars. In 2004, in fatal crashes where a rollover occurred, the occupant fatality rate per 100,000 registered vehicles for SUVs was 9.29, 6.72 for pickup trucks, 3.66 for vans, and 3.25 for passenger cars.

The fatality rate for roadway departure-related crashes per 100 million VMT in 2004 was 0.87; the FHWA target goal in 2004 was 0.82.

Intersection-related Crashes

Another frequent type of highway fatality occurs at intersections. Exhibit 5-11 displays intersection-related fatalities by functional system. As previously stated, of the 42,636 fatalities that occurred in 2004, 21.4 percent (9,117) was attributed to crashes that were related to intersections.

Exhibit 5-11
Intersection-related Fatalities by Functional System, 2004
Functional System Fatalities Percent of Total
Rural Areas (under 5,000 in population)
Interstate 6 0.1%
Other Principal Arterial 1,051 11.5%
Minor Arterial 1,049 11.5%
Major Collector 1,004 11.0%
Minor Collector 279 3.1%
Local 569 6.2%
Unknown Rural 26 0.3%
Subtotal Rural 3,984 43.7%
Urban Areas (5,000 and over in population)
Interstate 17 0.2%
Other Freeway and Expressway 169 1.9%
Other Principal Arterial 2,026 22.2%
Minor Arterial 1,349 14.8%
Collector 415 4.6%
Local 1,025 11.2%
Unknown Urban 77 0.8%
Subtotal Urban 5,078 55.7%
Unknown Rural or Urban 55 0.6%
Total Highway Fatalities 9,117  
Source: Fatality Analysis Reporting System / National Center for Statistics & Analysis, NHTSA.

More than one-half (55.7 percent) of intersection-related fatalities occurred on urban roadways, compared with 44 percent that occur in rural areas. The majority of urban fatalities (22.2 percent) occurred on urban other principal arterials. Rural other principal arterials, rural minor arterials, rural major collectors, and urban local roads each account for between 11.0 to 11.5 percent of intersection-related fatalities in 2004.

Q and A
What is the distribution of intersection-related fatalities among functional systems?
Combining rural and urban functional systems, about 62.2 percent of intersection-related fatalities were on arterials, 18.6 percent were on collector roads, 17.5 percent were on local roads, and 1.7 percent were on unspecified roads.

Older drivers and pedestrians are particularly at risk at intersections; half of the fatal crashes for drivers aged 80 or older and one-third of the pedestrian deaths among people aged 70 or older occurred at intersections.

The fatality rate for intersection-related crashes per 100,000 in 2004 was 3.10; the FHWA target goal in 2004 was 2.96.

Pedestrian-related Crashes

Exhibit 5-12 displays pedestrian-related fatalities that occurred from 1997 to 2004. The number of pedestrian-related fatalities decreased from 6,526 in 1995 to 5,494 in 2004, a decrease of 15.8 percent. Note that the term "pedestrian-related" in this report refers to fatalities and crashes that involve pedestrians, pedalcyclists, and other nonmotorists (skateboard riders, roller skaters, etc.).

Exhibit 5-12
Pedestrian-related Fatalities, 1995–2004
  1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004
Pedestrians 5,5845,4495,3215,2284,9394,7634,9014,8514,7744,641
Pedalcyclists 833765814760754693732665629725
Other Nonmotorists 109154153131149141123114140128
Total6,5266,3686,2886,1195,8425,5975,7565,6305,5435,494
Source: Fatality Analysis Reporting System / National Center for Statistics & Analysis, NHTSA.

As previously stated, nonmotorist fatalities accounted for 12.9 percent of all traffic fatalities in 2004. Among nonmotorist fatalities, pedestrians accounted for 84.5 percent, pedalcyclists for 13.2 percent, with the remaining 2.3 percent being skateboard riders, roller skaters, etc.

In 2004, pedestrian fatalities occurred most frequently in urban areas, at non-intersections, in normal weather conditions, and at night. Pedalcyclist fatalities occurred most frequently in urban areas, at non-intersections, in the early evening hours (5 p.m. to 9 p.m.), during the summer months (June, July, and August). Cross-sectioning intersection-related fatalities, 950 pedestrians and 236 pedalcyclists were fatally injured at intersections.

Of the traffic crashes that resulted in pedestrian fatalities in 2004, 47 percent were alcohol-related, as either the driver or the pedestrian had consumed alcohol; in 6 percent of the crashes that occurred, both driver and pedestrian had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 or higher. More than one-third of crashes that occurred in 2004 involving pedalcyclists and drivers who had consumed alcohol resulted in fatality.

The fatality rate for pedestrian-related crashes per 100,000 in 2004 was 1.87; the FHWA target goal in 2004 was 1.5.

Highway Fatalities by Contributing Factor

Alcohol-related Crashes

Alcohol-impaired driving is a serious public safety problem in the United States. The NHTSA estimates that alcohol was involved in 39 percent of all traffic fatalities and 7 percent of all crashes in 2004. The 16,694 fatalities in 2004 represent an average of one alcohol-related fatality every 31 minutes.

Q and A
How is "alcohol-related" defined in this report?
The term "alcohol-related" does not indicate that a crash or fatality was caused by the presence of alcohol. As defined by the NHTSA, a motor vehicle crash is considered to be alcohol-related if at least one driver or non-occupant (pedestrian or pedalcyclist) involved in the crash is determined to have a BAC of 0.01 or higher. Thus, any fatality that occurs in an alcohol-related crash is considered an alcohol-related fatality.

Exhibit 5-13 shows the number of fatalities attributable to alcohol between 1995 and 2004. The number of fatalities dropped from 17,732 in 1995 to 16,694 in 2004, although the pattern of alcohol-related fatalities has been uneven—declining between 1996 and 1999, then increasing between 1999 and 2002, then declining until 2004.

Exhibit 5-13
Alcohol-related Fatalities, 1995–2004
1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004
17,73217,74916,71116,67316,57217,38017,40017,52417,10516,694
Source: Fatality Analysis Reporting System / National Center for Statistics & Analysis, NHTSA; Traffic Safety Facts 2004; National Center of Statistics & Analysis, NHSTA.

There are three main groups involved in alcohol-impaired driving. In 2004, 32 percent of drivers between the ages of 21 and 24 who were involved in fatal crashes had a BAC of 0.08 grams per deciliter, the highest for all age groups. Recent statistical reports show that drivers in this age group tend to have much higher levels of intoxication than other age groups. Drivers involved in fatal crashes with a BAC greater than 0.08 grams per deciliter were eight times more likely than sober drivers to have a prior conviction for driving while impaired.

Speed-related Crashes

Speeding is one of the most prevalent factors contributing to traffic crashes. In 2004, nearly 13,192 lives were lost in speed-related crashes. The estimated annual economic costs of speed-related crashes exceeded $40.4 billion in 2000. This included $10.3 billion in fatalities, $13.3 billion in injuries, and $3.8 billion in property damage.

Q and A
What is the distribution of speed-related fatalities among functional systems?
About 14 percent of fatalities were on Interstates, 37 percent were on other arterial roads, 24 percent were on collector roads, and 25 percent were on local roads.

For drivers involved in fatal crashes, young males are most likely to speed. The relative proportion of speed-related crashes to all crashes decreases with increasing driver age. For example, in 2004, 38 percent of male drivers between the ages of 15 and 20 who were involved in fatal crashes were speeding at the time of the crash, while the comparable figure for male drivers between the ages of 35 and 44 was only 20 percent.

Research completed by NHTSA shows the correlation between speeding and alcohol consumption in fatal crashes. In 2004, 40 percent of the drivers with a BAC of 0.08 or higher involved in fatal crashes were speeding, compared with only 15 percent of drivers with a BAC of 0.00 involved in fatal crashes.

Many speeding crashes also occur during bad weather. Speeding was a factor in 29 percent of the fatal crashes that occurred on dry roads in 2004 and in 34 percent of those that occurred on wet roads. Speeding was a factor in 50 percent of the fatal crashes that occurred when there was snow or slush on the road and in 59 percent of those that occurred on icy roads.

Although much of the public concern about speed-related crashes focuses on high-speed roadways, speeding is a safety concern on all roads. Almost half of speed-related fatalities occur on lower functional systems.

Crashes by Vehicle Type

Exhibit 5-14 shows the number of occupant fatalities by vehicle type from 1995 to 2004. The number of occupant fatalities that involved passenger cars decreased from 22,423 in 1995 to 19,091 in 2004, while occupant fatalities involving light and large trucks, motorcycles, and other vehicles all increased during this period. Exhibit 5-15 presents the number of occupant injuries by vehicle type from 1995 to 2004.

Exhibit 5-14
Fatalities for Vehicle Occupants by Type of Vehicle, 1995–2004
Type of Vehicle 1995 1997 2000 2002 2004
Motorists
  Passenger Cars 22,423 22,199 20,699 20,569 19,091
  Light Trucks 9,568 10,249 11,526 12,274 12,602
  Large Trucks 648 723 754 689 761
  Motorcycles 2,227 2,116 2,897 3,270 4,008
  Buses 33 18 22 45 41
  Other & Unknown Vehicles 392 420 450 528 639
Nonmotorists
  Pedestrians 5,584 5,321 4,763 4,851 4,641
  Pedalscyclists 833 814 693 665 725
  Other & Unknown 109 153 141 114 128
Total 41,817 42,013 41,945 43,005 42,636
Source: Fatality Analysis Reporting System / National Center for Statistics & Analysis, NHTSA.

Exhibit 5-15
Injuries for Vehicle Occupants by Type of Vehicle, 1995–2004
Type of Vehicle 1995 1997 2000 2002 2004
Motorists
  Passenger Cars 2,469,358 2,340,612 2,051,609 1,804,788 1,642,549
  Light Trucks 722,496 754,820 886,566 879,338 900,171
  Large Trucks 30,344 30,913 30,832 26,242 27,287
  Motorcycles 57,480 52,574 57,723 64,713 76,379
  Buses 19,214 16,887 17,769 18,819 16,410
  Other & Unknown Vehicles 4,468 5,602 10,120 6,187 7,262
Nonmotorists
  Pedestrians 86,000 77,000 78,000 71,000 68,000
  Pedalscyclists 67,000 58,000 51,000 48,000 41,000
  Other & Unknown 10,000 11,000 5,000 7,000 9,000
Total 3,466,360 3,347,408 3,188,619 2,926,087 2,788,058
Source: Fatality Analysis Reporting System / National Center for Statistics & Analysis, NHTSA.

The number of occupant fatalities in light trucks increased sharply between 1995 and 2004. Fatalities in these vehicles increased from 9,568 in 1995 to 12,602 in 2004, or an increase of 31.7 percent. There were 900,171 light truck occupants injured in 2004, up from 722,496 in 1995.

The number of occupant fatalities in large trucks increased 17.4 percent, from 648 in 1995 to 761 in 2004. There were 27,287 large truck occupants injured in 2004.

The number of motorcyclists who died in crashes increased significantly between 1995 and 2004, from 2,227 in 1995 to 4,008 in 2004, an 80.0 percent increase; there were 76,379 motorcyclists injured in 2004, an increase of 32.9 percent from the 57,480 motorcyclists who were injured in 1995.

Motorcycle crashes are frequently speed-related. In 2004, for instance, about 36 percent of all motorcyclists involved in fatal crashes were speeding. Speed was two times more likely to be a factor in fatal motorcycle crashes than in passenger car or light truck crashes. Studies also have shown that alcohol was more likely to have been a factor in motorcycle crashes than passenger car or light truck crashes.

Crashes by Age Group

Another important way of examining highway crashes is by demographic segment. Exhibit 5-16 shows the breakdown of drivers, by age, involved in fatal crashes in 2004.

Exhibit 5-16: Age of Drivers Involved in Fatal Crashes, 2004. Pie chart in nine segments showing distribution of age ranges of drivers involved in fatal crashes. The values for 13.6 percent for age 15 to 20; 11 percent for age 21 to 24; 19.2 percent for age 25 to 34; 18.4 percent for age 35 to 44; 15.7 percent for age 45 to 54; 9.6 percent for age 55 to 64; 2.9 percent for age 65 to 69; 7.8 percent for age 70 and other; and 1.8 percent for driver underage or age undetermined. Source: Fatality Analysis Reporting System, National Center for Statistics and Analysis, NHTSA.

Drivers between the ages of 15 and 20 constitute 6.3 percent of licensed drivers, but 13.6 percent of total drivers involved in fatal crashes. In 2004, 29 percent of the drivers killed in this age group had been drinking. Drivers in the next oldest age category, those between 21 and 24 years, made up 6.9 percent of licensed drivers and 11.2 percent of drivers involved in fatal crashes.

On the other end of the spectrum, there were 20.0 million drivers aged 70 or older in 2004, accounting for 10.0 percent of licensed drivers in 2004. This age group accounted for 7.9 percent of drivers involved in fatal crashes and 11.2 percent of driver fatalities in 2004.

Older drivers tend to take shorter trips. They usually avoid driving during bad weather and at night; in 2004, for instance, most traffic fatalities involving older drivers occurred during the daytime (81 percent). Older drivers involved in fatal crashes also had the lowest proportion of intoxication of all adult drivers.

Transit Safety

Transit operators report safety information to the National Transit Database (NTD) for three major categories: incidents, injuries, and fatalities. Safety information presented in this chapter is for directly operated services only, in order to facilitate comparisons with data in previous editions of the C&P report.

In 2002, the FTA Office of Safety revised the definitions of an "incident" and an "injury." Given that there is no "statistical bridge" across the change in definitions that occurred between 2001 and 2002, this chapter provides only injury and incident data from 2002 onward. Data on injuries and incidents prior to 2002, which are not comparable with the 2002 to 2004 data, are available in the 2004 C&P report.

An incident is recorded by a transit agency for a variety of events occurring on transit property or vehicles, involving transit vehicles, or to persons using the transit system. Included among these is any event that results in significant property damage, one or more reported injuries, one or more reported fatalities, or some combination thereof. Since 2002, the definition of "significant property damage" has been total property damage in excess of $7,500; prior to 2002, the definition was property damage in excess of $1,000. This increase in the property damage threshold has greatly reduced the number of reported incidents.

Q and A
What sort of events result in a recorded transit incident?
A transit agency records an incident for any event occurring on transit property, onboard or involving transit vehicles,, or to persons using the transit system that results in one of the following:
  • One or more confirmed fatalities within 30 days of the incident
  • One or more injuries requiring immediate transportation away from the scene for medical attention
  • Total property damage to transit property or private property in excess of $7,500
  • An evacuation due to life safety reasons
  • A mainline derailment (i.e., occurring on a revenue service line, regardless of whether the vehicle was in service or out-of-service)
  • A fire.
Additionally, an incident is recorded by a transit agency whenever one of the following security situations occurs on transit property, onboard or involving transit vehicles, or to persons using the transit system:
  • A robbery, burglary, or theft
  • A rape
  • A suicide or attempted suicide
  • An aggravated assault
  • An arrest or citation, such as for trespassing, vandalism, fare evasion, or an assault
  • A bomb threat
  • A bombing
  • A release of chemical, biological, nuclear, or radiological materials
  • A cybersecurity incident
  • A hijacking
  • A nonviolent civil disturbance that results in the disruption of transit service
  • A sabotage.

In 2002, the definition of an injury was switched from a claims basis to a verifiable basis, leading to a reduction in reported injuries. Since 2002, an injury has been reported only when a person has been immediately transported away from the scene of a transit incident for medical care. Prior to 2002, all injuries for which claims were made were reported by transit agencies to the NTD. Since any event producing a reported injury is also reported as an incident, the definitional change for an injury also reduced the number of reported incidents.

The definition of a fatality was not revised in 2002. A fatality is reported for any death occurring within 30 days of a transit incident, which is confirmed to be a result of that incident. Although suicides are reported as transit incidents, they are not included in the data on transit fatalities. Fatality data are provided from 1995 through 2004.

Injuries and fatalities include those suffered by riders, as well as those suffered by pedestrians, bicyclists, and people in other vehicles. Injuries and fatalities may occur while traveling on transit, as well as while boarding, alighting, or waiting for transit vehicles to arrive. An injury or fatality may also occur while not using transit, such as in the cases of being struck by a transit vehicle, or in the case of a collision in a transit station parking lot.

Exhibit 5-17 shows annual fatalities for directly operated transit services in both absolute numbers and adjusted according to the number of passenger miles traveled (PMT) in each year for 1995 to 2004. Between 1995 and 2004, total fatalities fluctuated between a high of 299 in 1999 and a low of 234 in 2003. There were 282 fatalities in 2002 and 248 in 2004. When adjusted for passenger use, however, the fatality rate per PMT has decreased over this time period, falling from 0.77 fatalities per 100 million PMT in 1995, to 0.66 per 100 million PMT in 2002, and to 0.55 fatalities per 100 million PMT in 2004.

Exhibit 5-17
Annual Transit Fatalities, 1995–2004:
Directly Operated Service
Year Total Per 100 Million PMT
19952740.77
19962650.73
19972750.73
19982860.73
19992990.73
20002920.69
20012680.61
20022820.66
20032340.56
20042480.55
Source: National Transit Database-Transit Safety and Security Statistics and Analysis Reporting.

Exhibit 5-18 provides total incidents and injuries for directly operated services in both absolute terms and per 100 million PMT. Incidents and injuries both decreased from 2002 to 2004, falling substantially from 2002 to 2003 before rising slightly in 2004. Adjusted for passenger use, however, both incidents and injuries per 100 million PMT declined in both years during this time period.

Exhibit 5-18
Annual Incidents and Injuries, 2002–2004:
Directly Operated Service
  Incidents Injuries
Year Total Per 100 Million PMT Total Per 100 Million PMT
2002 24,247 57 19,367 46
2003 19,797 47 18,235 44
2004 20,939 46 18,982 42
Source: National Transit Database–Transit Safety and Security Statistics and Analysis Reporting.

Exhibit 5-19 shows fatality rates per 100 million PMT for motorbus, heavy rail, commuter rail, light rail, and demand response, the five largest transit modes in terms of PMT. Together, these modes accounted for 97 percent of total PMT in 2004. [Absolute fatalities are not comparable across modes because of the wide range of passenger miles traveled on each mode and are therefore not provided.] This information is presented graphically in Exhibit 5-20 for all these modes except demand response. Fatalities per 100 million PMT for demand response are excluded from the graph due to their volatility.

Exhibit 5-19
Transit Fatalities by Mode, 1995–2004:
Annual Rates per 100 Million Passenger Miles, Directly Operated Service
  1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004
Motorbus0.500.630.650.640.570.510.510.430.510.46
Heavy Rail0.750.640.640.440.650.560.420.530.360.41
Commuter Rail1.211.011.131.161.160.990.991.360.901.00
Light Rail1.750.630.292.061.432.241.480.921.161.42
Demand Response4.048.263.002.070.483.770.420.001.810.00
Source: National Transit Database-Transit Safety and Security Statistics and Analysis Reporting.
Exhibit 5-20: Fatality Rates by Mode, 1995–2004. Line chart comparing fatality rates per 100 million passenger miles traveled for the years 1995 to 2004. The plot for light rail fatalities starts at 1.75 in 1995, drops quickly to 0.25 in 1997, climbs quickly to 2.0 in 1998, drops below 1.5 in 1999, climbs to a peak of 2.25 in 2000, drops steadily to below 1.0 in 2002 and ends trending upward at 1.4 in 2004. The plot for commuter rail fatalities starts at under 1.25 in 1995, drops to 1.0 in 1996, arcs upward slightly and back to 1.0 for 2000 and 2001, peaks at 1.3 in 2002, then swings down to end at 1.0 in 2004. The plot for heavy rail fatalities starts at 0.75 in 1995 and swings down to below 0.5 in 1998, and oscillates near this value where it ends in 2004. The plot for motorbus fatalities starts at 0.5 in 1995 and arcs to a peak value of 0.7 in 1997, and curves downward to 0.5 in 2000 and 2001, and swings about this value to end just below 0.5 in 2004. Source: National Transit Database.

Rail transit vehicles that travel on separate fixed guideway have historically had a lower number of fatalities relative to use than rail transit vehicles that share their guideway with nontransit vehicles. Motorbuses, which travel at slower speeds, have also had a relatively low number of fatalities per 100 million PMT. Between 1995 and 2004, heavy rail and motorbus had the fewest fatalities per 100 million PMT among the five largest modes. In 2004 heavy rail had 0.41 fatalities per 100 million PMT and motorbus had 0.46 fatalities per 100 million PMT. [Heavy rail fatalities per 100 million PMT were above those for motorbus between 1990 and 1996, but decreased significantly over these years.] Commuter rail, which has frequent grade crossings with roads and shares track with freight rail vehicles, had more fatalities per 100 million PMT than heavy rail for each year from 1995 to 2004. Light rail had the highest number of fatalities per 100 million PMT among the rail modes in 7 of the 10 years from 1995 to 2004; light rail guideway is often at grade level and has minimal barriers between streets and sidewalks.

The number of fatalities per 100 million PMT on demand response systems fluctuated considerably between 1995 and 2004, ranging from no fatalities in 2004 to 8.26 fatalities per 100 million PMT in 1996. Demand response accounts for only 1 percent of PMT; therefore, the underlying absolute number of demand response fatalities is very low, which accounts for the high degree of volatility in these numbers.

Exhibit 5-21 provides data on injuries and incidents per 100 million PMT for directly operated services on the five largest modes from 2002 to 2004. In 2004, commuter rail, which provides longer trips than other modes, had 19 incidents per 100 million PMT and 16 injuries per 100 million PMT, similar to the preceding 2 years. Heavy rail had 43 incidents and 33 injuries per 100 million PMT, light rail had 60 incidents and 41 injuries per 100 million PMT, and motorbuses had 70 incidents and 71 injuries per 100 million PMT. Demand response had the highest number of incidents and injuries per 100 million PMT from 2002 to 2004. Incidents on demand response systems declined from 225 per 100 million PMT in 2002 to 156 per 100 million PMT in 2004, and injuries declined from 173 per 100 million PMT to 131 per 100 million PMT. It is not clear, however, if this decline indicates a longer-term trend because, under the old definitions, incidents and injuries per 100 million PMT on demand response systems shown in the 2004 C&P Report did not decline between 1998 and 2002.

Exhibit 5-21
Transit Incidents and Injuries by Mode,
2002–2004: Directly Operated Service
Incidents per 100 Million PMT
  2002 2003 2004
Motorbus 76 65 70
Heavy Rail 51 41 43
Commuter Rail 20 20 19
Light Rail 76 67 60
Demand Response 225 187 156
Injuries per 100 Million PMT
  2002 2003 2004
Heavy Rail 35 31 33
Commuter Rail 17 19 16
Light Rail 39 37 41
Demand Response 173 181 131
Source: National Transit Database–Transit Safety and Security Statistics and Analysis Reporting.

Exhibit 5-22 shows the number of fatalities per 100 incidents for each of the five largest transit modes from 2002 to 2004. This metric does not represent the percentage of incidents that are fatal, as some incidents result in multiple fatalities. The metric does, however, show the likelihood that fatality will result from an incident. Although commuter rail has a very low number of incidents per PMT, commuter rail incidents are far more likely to result in a fatality than incidents occurring on any other mode. Motorbuses, on the other hand, have a high number of incidents per PMT, but a lower chance of having an incident result in a fatality than on almost any other mode. While light rail and motorbus have similar numbers of incidents per PMT, an incident on light rail is two to three times more likely to produce a fatality than an incident on a motorbus.

Exhibit 5-22
Fatalities per 100 Incidents by Mode, 2002–2004
  2002 2003 2004
Motorbus0.570.790.65
Heavy Rail1.050.880.95
Commuter Rail6.744.405.38
Light Rail1.201.732.36
Demand Response00.970
Source: National Transit Database-Transit Safety and Security Statistics and Analysis Reporting.
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