Each year in the United States, the economic impacts of motor vehicle (MV) crashes total billions of dollars. More than property damage, these costs include medical and other related costs, lost productivity in the workplace, legal costs, and more.
Statistics reveal that in the state of Pennsylvania alone, the economic loss due to motor vehicle crashes was $14,121,634,477. That year, there were 127,127 traffic crashes reported that resulted in the loss of 1,200 lives, and 80,004 more being injured.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA, 2015), alcohol involved crashes account for nearly a quarter of all crash costs in the U.S. In Pennsylvania, Alcohol involved crashes accounted for approximately 8% of all crashes. These crashes were 4.5 times more likely to result in a fatality than those not involving alcohol. In all, 29% of those killed in crashes were a result of alcohol involvement.
Injury severity also increases with alcohol involvement. Drinkers not only experience distorted perception and judgment; slower reaction times also result. This is especially of concern, as drinking drivers tend to speed, and neglect other safety considerations, including seat belt and helmet use.
A study by Zhao, Zhang, and Rong (2014) found that drinking drivers were affected in these ways and others, including attitude, vigilance, and reaction to the environment. Additionally, speed was significantly higher in drinking drivers group as they were more impulsive and sensation seeking.
Prevention Reduces the Cost of Car Crashes
The best way to reduce the cost of MV crashes in the state is to prevent them from happening in the first place. Additionally, lessening the likelihood of severe injury or death if and when a crash does happen is also important. For example, consistently using safety belts and car seats is one way of doing this (CDC, 2013).
Strategies for preventing crashes include:
- Graduated driver licensing
- Ignition interlocks for those convicted of driving while intoxicated
- Sobriety checkpoints
Last year, there were 192 motorcyclist deaths in the state of Pennsylvania, despite the fact that the number of registered motorcycles actually decreased that year. In fact, there were fewer license motorcycles in 2016 than there were in 2012. Still, the number of those killed on motorcycles has increased each year since.
In 2003, Pennsylvania’s helmet law became effective. This law says that a rider over the age of 21 who has been licensed to operate a motorcycle for two full years (or has completed a rider safety course) is not required to wear a helmet. Still, research clearly shows that helmets save lives. Not only do riders sustain injuries much more often than those in passenger cars, but those without helmets sustain brain, face, and head injuries and are admitted to ICU at a higher rate than those who do not. A study by Liu et al. (2008) reported that helmet use reduced the odds of death by 42% and the odds of head injury by 69%.
Research also shows that motorcyclists have a much higher likelihood of dying in a crash than car occupants. In 2015, 4,976 people died in the U.S. in motorcycle crashes, and 8.3% increase from 2014; 178 of those were in the state of Pennsylvania alone. That same year, 88,000 motorcyclists were injured. That number rose even higher in 2016.
Of the 3,447 motorcycles involved in crashes last year in the state of Pennsylvania, fatalities involving drivers or passengers of motorcycles were nearly 7% higher than the previous year.
In 2015, speeding was a factor 33% of the time when motorcyclists were killed in traffic crashes. Alcohol use was also a problem, with 27% of motorcycle rides having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or higher. Drinking drivers also tended to use their helmets less (compared to those who were not drinking and driving their motorcycles).
Liu BC, Ivers R, Norton R, Boufous S, Blows S, Lo SK. Helmets for preventing injury in motorcycle riders. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2008; doi:10.1002/14651858.CD004333.pub3
Drivers Involved in Crashes
According to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT, 2016), there were 60,265 injuries and 1,188 fatalities due to crashes in the state of Pennsylvania last year. Crashes involved drivers of all ages, but predominately those over the age of 20 and below the age of 65.
Drinking drivers continued to be the most dangerous drivers in Pennsylvania last year. According to the Pennsylvania DUI Association’s 2015 Briefs Report, drinking and driving remains a top safety issue in the state. In fact, alcohol-related deaths represented 29% of all traffic related deaths in 2015, with drivers in the 21 to 25 age group presenting the greatest problem when it came to drinking and driving.
According to the Pennsylvania DUI Association, three out of four drinking drivers were male. While those age 21 to 30 had the highest percentage of crashes by age groups, those in the 31 to 35 age group had the highest percentage (47%) of drinking driver deaths.
While Pennsylvania continues to take an aggressive stance when it comes to drinking and driving and seeks to prevent and deter this practice, the fact remains that too many people have died because people have chosen to drink and drive. In 2015:
- 345 people died in alcohol-related crashes
- 93% of the alcohol-related occupant deaths (drivers and passengers) were in vehicles driven by drinking drivers
- 73% of the alcohol-related crashes occurred at night, typically on weekends
- On average, 29 alcohol-related traffic crashes occurred each day
- On average, one person died in an alcohol-related traffic crash every day
- On average, 19 people were injured in alcohol-related traffic crashes every day
|Type of Crash||2016|
|Unrestrained Fatalities (Pass. Cars, Lt Trks, Hvy Trks, Vans, SUVs)||408|
|Fatalities in Alcohol-Related Crashes||297|
|Fatalities in Drinking Driver Crashes||263|
|Fatalities in Impaired Driver Crashes||341|
|Fatalities in Speeding Crashes||191|
|Fatalities in Distracted Driver Crashes||69|
|Fatalities in Heavy Truck Crashes||160|
|Fatalities in Aggressive Driving Crashes||128|
|Fatalities in Single Vehicle Run-Off-the-Road Crashes||518|
|Fatalities in Hit Fixed Object Crashes||401|
|Fatalities in Hit Tree Crashes||211|
|Fatalities in Hit Utility Pole Crashes||97|
|Fatalities in Hit Guiderail Crashes||130|
|Fatalities in Head-on / Opposite Direction Side Swipe Crashes||159|
|Fatalities in Intersection Crashes||279|
|Fatalities in Signalized Intersection Crashes||102|
|Fatalities in Stop Controlled Intersection Crashes||103|
|Fatalities in Running Red Light Crashes (any factor)||28|
|Fatalities in Crashes Involving a 65+ Year Old Driver||267|
|Fatalities in Crashes Involving a 65-74 Year Old Driver||143|
|Fatalities in Crashes Involving a 75+ Year Old Driver||132|
|Fatalities in Local Road (only) Crashes||180|
|Fatalities in Work Zone Crashes (all people)||16|
|Fatalities in Winter Condition Crashes||43|
|Fatalities in Crashes Involving a 16-17 Year Old Driver||47|
|Fatalities in Crashes Involving a 16 Year Old Driver||15|
|Fatalities in Crashes Involving a 17 Year Old Driver||32|
|Fatalities in Drowsy/Asleep Driver Crashes||26|
|Fatalities in Train/Trolley with Motor Vehicle Crashes||3|
|Fatalities in Vehicle Failure Related Crashes (any factor)||59|
|Type of Crash||2016|
|Single Vehicle Run-Off-the-Road Crashes||45,868|
|Hit Fixed Object Crashes||38,244|
|Local Road (only) Crashes||32,309|
|Crashes Involving a 65+ Year Old Driver||21,125|
|Signalized Intersection Crashes||19,853|
|Distracted Driver Crashes||16,050|
|Stop Controlled Intersection Crashes||15,200|
|Unrestrained Crashes (Pass. Cars, Lt Trks, Hvy Trks, Vans, SUVs)||14,992|
|Crashes Involving a 65-74 Year Old Driver||13,618|
|Impaired Driver Crashes||12,757|
|Winter Condition Crashes||10,300|
|Drinking Driver Crashes||10,008|
|Hit Tree Crashes||8,818|
|Hit Utility Pole Crashes||8,784|
|Crashes Involving a 75+ Year Old Driver||8,239|
|Head-on / Opposite Direction Side Swipe Crashes||7,326|
|Aggressive Driving Crashes||6,996|
|Hit Guiderail Crashes||6,863|
|Heavy Truck Crashes||6,740|
|Crashes Involving a 16-17 Year Old Driver||6,671|
|Vehicle Failure Related Crashes (any factor)||5,905|
|Running Red Light Crashes (any factor)||4,780|
|Crashes Involving a 17 Year Old Driver||4,752|
|Drowsy/Asleep Driver Crashes||2,635|
|Work Zone Crashes||2,075|
|Crashes Involving a 16 Year Old Driver||1,996|
|Train/Trolley with Motor Vehicle Crashes||52|
State of Pennsylvania School Zone Crashes
In the state of Pennsylvania, there were 82,962 crash related injuries in 2016 and 1188 fatalities. That same year, 462 people were involved in crashes that took place in school zones, resulting in 371 injuries and 6 fatalities. There were 78 pedestrians involved in school zone crash incidents and six bicyclists. Crashes involved a school bus within a school zone 13.4% of the time (N=62), though there were 817 total crash incidents involving a school bus in 2016 in the state.
While the majority of the injuries were reported as minor (n=154, or 22.8%), 58 (16.8%) of the injuries were moderate, and 17 (3.7%) were major injuries. Four of those sustaining major injuries were pedestrians, and one crash resulted in a pedestrian fatality. (The remaining injuries were not categorized.)
The majority of crashes in school zones took place on Wednesdays (n=100), while the fewest took place on Sundays (n=26).
Crashes typically took place during the daylight hours, under good weather and lighting conditions.
The majority of crashes (98) took place in Philadelphia. Since this is the largest county in PA, this was not surprising; larger counties weren’t always where more crashes took place, however. For example, 3.5% of crashes in school zones occurred in Lackawanna (the 7th highest in school zone crashes), that had a population of 214,428, while other areas of similar size had only four or five crash incidents.
When taking into consideration number of vehicle miles traveled per year in the county, those with the highest rates of crashes in school zones (the top 25) are those in the chart below, with Northampton at the top of the list, followed by Philadelphia.