Epidemiology of motor vehicle collisions

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Deaths for road traffic accidents per 100,000 inhabitants in 2004.[1]
  no data
  < 5
  5-12.5
  12.5-20
  20-27.5
  27.5-35
  35-42.5
  42.5-50
  50-57.5
  57.5-65
  65-72.5
  72.5-80
  > 80
Road fatalities per 1 billion vehicle-km
  no data
  < 5.0
  5.0-6.5
  6.5-8.0
  8.0-9.5
  9.5-11.0
  11.0-12.5
  12.5-14.0
  14.0-15.5
  15.5-17.0
  17.0-18.5
  18.5-20.0
  > 20.0

Worldwide it was estimated that 1.2 million people were killed and 50 million more were injured in motor vehicle collisions in 2004.[2] This makes motor vehicle collisions the leading cause of death among children 10 – 19 years of age (260,000 children die a year, 10 million are injured)[3] and the sixth leading preventable cause of death in the United States[4] (45,800 people died and 2.4 million were injured in 2005).[5] It is estimated that motor vehicle collisions caused the death of around 60 million people during the 20th century[6] around the same number of World War II casualties.

Modern accident statistics often focus on reportable injury accidents (which include deaths) rather than reporting on deaths alone. It is believed that serious accidents are often significantly under-reported, under-recorded and misclassified[7] and that the completeness of reporting may vary over time and between sources.[8]

Trends[edit]

US annual deaths per billion vehicle miles traveled (VMT) vs annual VMT (tens of billions), 1921 to 2009.

Road toll figures in developed nations show that car collision fatalities have declined since 1980. Japan is an extreme example, with road deaths decreasing to 5,115 in 2008, which is 25% of the 1970 rate per capita and 17% of the 1970 rate per vehicle distance travelled. In 2008, for the first time, more pedestrians than vehicle occupants were killed in Japan by cars.[9] Besides improving general road conditions like lighting and separated walkways, Japan has been installing intelligent transportation system technology such as stalled-car monitors to avoid crashes.

In developing nations, statistics may be grossly inaccurate or hard to get. Some nations have not significantly reduced the total death rate, which stands at 12,000 in Thailand in 2007, for example.[10]

In the United States, twenty-eight states had reductions in the number of automobile accident fatalities between 2005 and 2006.[11] 55% of vehicle occupants 16 years or older in 2006 were not using seat belts when they crashed.[12]

Road fatality trends tend to follow Smeed's law,[13] an empirical schema that correlates increased fatality rates per capita with traffic congestion.

Proportion of deaths by type of impact[edit]

A Ford Escort that was involved in a head-on collision

Crashes are categorized by what is struck and the direction of impact, or impacts. These are some common crash types, based on the total number that occurred in the U.S.A. in 2005, the percentage of total crashes, and the percentage of fatal crashes:[14]

  • Rear impacts (1,824,000 crashes, 29.6% of all US crashes, 5.4% of US fatal crashes)
  • Collisions with animals (275,000 crashes, 4.5% of US crashes, 0.4% of fatal crashes)
  • Rollovers (141,000 crashes, 2.3% of all US crashes, 10.9% of US fatal crashes)
  • Head-on collision (123,000 crashes, only 2.0% of all US crashes, but 10.1% of US fatal crashes)
  • Collisions with pedestrians and bicyclists (114,000 crashes, only 1.8% of US crashes, but 13.5% of US fatal crashes)
  • Back-up collisions killed 221 people in the US in 2007, and injured about 14,400. This is one of the most common types of non-traffic auto collision in which road workers and children 15 and younger are killed.[15][16]

Rollover, head-on, pedestrian, and bicyclist crashes combined are only 6.1% of all crashes, but cause 34.5% of traffic-related fatalities.

Sometimes the vehicles in the collision can suffer more than one type of impact, such as during a shunt or high-speed spin. This is called a "second harmful event," such as when a vehicle is redirected by the first crash into another vehicle or fixed object.

Statistics in Europe[edit]

Country Surface
(thousands of km²)
Population
(millions)
Density
(inhabitants/km2)
Vehicles in circulation
(thousands)
Length

of the road network

(kilometers)
Circulation
(millions of

vehicles x km)

Nb of the vehic.

for 100 inhabitants

Killed for million

of inhabitants

Killed for billion of km travelled
Austria 84 8.2 97.7 5,279 107,143 82,221 64.5 93.8 9.3
Belgium 33 10.4 320.3 6,159 151,372 94,677 59.1 104.5 11.5
Czech Republic 79 10.2 129.6 4,732 55,495 50,262 46.3 95.8 17.2
Denmark 43 5.4 126 2,570 72,074 47,940 47.3 61 6.9
Finland 338 5.2 15.5 2,871 79,150 51,675 54.7 72.2 7.3
France 551 60.5 109.7 37,168 1,002 486 552,800 61.4 77.9 9.6
Germany 357 82.5 231.1 54,520 626,981 684,283 66.1 74.8 7.8
Greece 132 11.1 84 6,641 40,164 81,635 59.9 149.1 20.3
Hungary 93 10.1 108.5 3,370 180,994 ND 33.4 96.6 ND
Republic of Ireland 71 4.1 58.6 1,937 95,752 37,840 46.7 96.2 10.5
Italy 301 58.1 192.8 43,141 305,388 654,197 74.3 94 8.3
Luxembourg 3 0.5 179.8 358 2,876 2,875 77 98.9 16.0
Netherlands 42 16.3 392.5 8,627 117,430 133,800 52.9 46 5.6
Poland 323 38.5 119.4 16,815 381,462 377,289 43.6 81.3 10.4
Portugal 93 10.5 113.3 5,481 81,739 ND 52.2 118.8 ND
United Kingdom 244 60.2 246.7 33,717 413,120 499,396 56 55.9 6.7
Slovakia 49 5.4 110.1 1,834 17,755 13,402 34 112.6 45.4
Slovenia 20 2 97 1,150 20,196 15,519 58.5 69* 16.6
Spain 505 43.4 86 27,657 666,204 ND 63.7 103.1 ND
Sweden 450 9 20.1 5,131 214,000 75,196 56.8 48.7 5.9
Partial Total Eu (20 countries) 3809 451.1 118.4 269,158 4,631,781 3,451,938 59.7 87.5 11.6
Iceland 103 0.3 2.9 236 91,916 2,006 80.3 64.6 9.5
Norway 324 4.6 14.3 2,938 92,511 36,550 63.6 48.5 6.1
Switzerland 41 7.4 179.6 5,043 71,027 62,685 68 55.2 6.5
Source IRTAD for the following data : 

Number of vehicles : 2005 except Ireland 2003 ; Luxembourg 2004 ; Slovakia 2002.
Length of the network: 2005 except Hungary and Luxembourg 2004 ; Germany and Denmark 2003 ; Slovakia 2002 ; Iceland 2000 ; Ireland 2001 ; Netherlands 1999 ; Greece and United Kingdom 1998 ; Portugal 1993 ; Italy 1992. Distance in Kilometres : 2005 except Denmark 2004 ; Italy and Netherlands 2003 ; Ireland 2001 ; Iceland and Slovakia 2000 ; United Kingdom and Greece 1998.
Population : source IRTAD except for Ireland, Luxembourg, Slovakia, Sweden, Iceland and Norway: source INED.

See also[edit]

Nations:

References[edit]

Fey A, ;Becker IV, ;Furlani LF, ;Teixeira JVC, ;Bahter LCV, ;Teixeira JVC. ; Perfil epidemiológico dos óbitos em acidentes de trânsito na região do Alto Vale do Itajaí, Santa Catarina, Brasil. Revista On-line da Associação Catarinense de Medicina. 2011; V40 N1: 23-27.

Fey A, ;Enge Junior DJ, ;Becker IV, ;Teixeira JVC, ;Teixeira JVC. ; Perfil dos acidentes de trânsito com vítimas fatais do Alto Vale do Itajaí segundo dados dos boletins policiais de ocorrência da polícia rodoviária federal– BR 470, estadual e perímetro urbano de Rio do Sul no período de 2004 a 2006. Revista On-line da Associação Catarinense de Medicina. 2012; V41 N3: 20-25.


  1. ^ "WHO Disease and injury country estimates". World Health Organization. 2004. Retrieved 11 Nov 2009. 
  2. ^ "WHO | World report on road traffic injury prevention". 
  3. ^ "BBC NEWS | Special Reports | UN raises child accidents alarm". BBC News. 10 December 2008. Retrieved 2 May 2010. 
  4. ^ Mokdad AH, Marks JS, Stroup DF, Gerberding JL (March 2004). "Actual causes of death in the United States, 2000". JAMA 291 (10): 1238–45. doi:10.1001/jama.291.10.1238. PMID 15010446. 
  5. ^ "Report on Injuries in America :: Making Our World Safer". 
  6. ^ http://www.visualnews.com/2013/03/19/visualizing-major-causes-of-death-in-the-20th-century/
  7. ^ Simpson, H F. Comparison of hospital and police casualty data: a national study (TRL Report 173 ed.). Transport Research Laboratory. there may be 2.76 times as many seriously injured casualties than are recorded in the national casualty figures and 1.70 slight casualties 
  8. ^ Gill, Goldacre, & Yeates (23 June 2006). "Changes in safety on England's roads: analysis of hospital statistics". British medical Journal. 
  9. ^ Pedestrians become chief victims of road accident deaths in 2008
  10. ^ 365 Days for Stopping Accident Deaths
  11. ^ People Killed in Motor Vehicle Crashes, by State, 2005-2006
  12. ^ NCSA Research Note (DOT-HS-810-948). US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. May 2008. 
  13. ^ Adams, John. "Smeed's Law : some further thoughts" (PDF). University College London. 
  14. ^ National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Traffic Safety Facts 2005, 2007, P. 54. http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/810631.pdf
  15. ^ The Risk of Reverse. New York Times 10 April 2009.
  16. ^ Building Safer Highway Work Zones: Measures to Prevent Worker Injuries From Vehicles and Equipment PDF NIOSH, April 2001.