What causes car deaths and how to limit them

Perhaps the biggest reason why we don’t see more fatal crashes on freeways is that there are no intersections on them (with a few exceptions). In fact, there are more drivers killed in intersections (20%) than on freeways.

After accounting for freeways (18%) and intersections and junctions (20%), we’re still left with more than 60% of drivers killed in automotive accidents left accounted for.

It turns out that drivers killed on rural roads with 2 lanes (i.e., one lane in each direction divided by a double yellow line) accounts for a staggering 38% of total mortality. This number would actually be higher, except to keep the three categories we have mutually exclusive, we backed out any intersection-related driver deaths on these roads and any killed on 2-lane rural roads that were classified as “freeway.” So, to recap, 3 of out every 4 deaths in a car occur on the freeway, at an intersection/junction, or on a rural road with a single lane in each direction.


In drivers killed on 2-lane rural roads, 50% involved a driver not wearing a seat belt. Close to 40% have alcohol in their system and nearly 90% of these drivers were over the legal limit of 0.08 g/dL. About one-third involved speeding, and 16% did not have a valid driver’s license.

Here is the full piece by Peter Attia, interesting throughout.  Via Anecdotal.


Australia should be a good nation for a comparison. Why is our road death toll less than two-thirds that of the United States per kilometer driven? I'd say the number one reason is almost everyone wears a seat belt. But one quarter of people who die in road accidents aren't wearing them, which is an indicator of how effective they are at saving lives. The number of alcohol related road deaths are nearly the same, while speeding is apparently involved in 30% of road fatalities here.

Because you have endless miles of roads and no one driving on them. Duh.

That's not it, but we do have very little ice and or snow. I presume on average driving conditions are also dryer.

I bet look at the difference by state would give a hint.
At first look, it looks like the more urban the fewer fatalities per mile, and the later the development the more fatalities.
I'm from RI but have lived in FL for a long time. The FL roads, all built after the automobile became ubiquitous, seem crazy to me.

Wow Utah is surprisingly low. Fewer drunks, Demon alcohol?
You also seem to have the issue of places people are moving away from are left with more people with problems and so Wets Virginia.

More likely it's just that the population in Australia is more urban than in the US. There are proportionately fewer people driving the winding, deadly rural roads that Tyler cites.

Yep, Australia's population is 86% urban vs. around 82% for the United States.

You're actually right; I should only have said "equally as likely." Depending on the year, the difference in urban population has been as high as 89% vs. 80%. Twice the percentage of rural population, half again as many fatalities.

Seat belt use percentages yield the same result: 95 percent in Australia vs. 90 percent in the US. Twice the noncompliance rate, half again as many fatalities.

"I'd say the number one reason is almost everyone wears a seat belt. "

The US (90%) and Australia (95%) are close in overall usage, but still there's a difference. Canada (91%) and Ireland (89%) are very close to the US, what are their stats like?

Contrast with Italy (64%) and Greece (40%).


I am guessing seat belt use is a major difference between Australia and the US. I don't know enough about Italy and Greece to make any firm guesses, but looking at seat belt use by country I'll note that Sweden's rate is 97.5% and their road death toll per km is more than one-third less than Australia's. Japan's is seat belt wearing rate is the same as Australia's, but their road deal toll per km is nearly one-third higher. But this is no real mystery. A large portion of drivers didn't learn to drive until they were middle aged, along with a poor combination of rigid rule following and informal "politeness" conventions over who has right of way.

Almost everyone in the U.S. wears seat belts too.

The portion who don't wear seat belts is small in both countries, but that portion is still about twice as large in the United States.

Australian car trivia: Because the portion of people who wear seat belts are higher, our air bags are set to require a greater impact to activate than in the US.

We find age is a huge factor in surviving a car crash with the elderly having much lower odds. The median age is basically identical between Australia and the USA at around 38, but in Japan it's just short of 10 years higher and this will contribute a lot to road fatalities.

Given the number of 2-lane rural roads (even narrower than American rural roads) in Europe (and many of those are classified as freeways even though they have intersections and everything), I can only imagine that the fatality rates are worse. The greatest difference is that you probably can't achieve really high speeds on those roads.

Having driven in both countries (admittedly almost entirely in NSW for Australia), drivers and driving conditions seem to be relatively similar. I'd be willing to bet that some of the relief comes from busier intersections in Australia being roundabouts instead of crossings. I'm not sure if the effect is large enough to drive the differences, but I would certainly imagine that you have fewer t-bones and more side-swipes (so the type of collision is safer), and maybe even few accidents over all, since no one expects the other car to stop.

Roundabouts help with traffic flow and are a traffic calming feature, so they should contribute to lower the road death toll. They apparently work because people pay attention at roundabouts while their brains are switched off at traffic lights. But being forced to pay attention is why many people hate them.

Australia has one main highway connecting its southern cities and one major highway to the north. Comparing with the US is retarded. Yer knowledge of your home country is like that of Scott Morrison.

An easy answer is spot checks, of course. Penalties if guilty of boozing, speeding, or not buckling up.

Is anybody interested? Should be, 'cause it can hit you. :-)

So spot checks aren't a thing already? We have random breath testing for alcohol in Australia and they can now also test for a number of drugs. I've only been stopped a couple of times, but then I don't normally drive at prime drinking times.

By the way, our permitted Blood Alcohol Level is under 0.05%. This seems reasonable, as it's high enough for measurable impairment and generally speaking, it takes time to get caught by the police so a person who is nabbed at 0.05% was often at 0.06% when they got in the car.

They have spot checks in urban areas here. Rural areas would lack the resources.

I've been spot checked in rural areas on a weekend night.

Where you there for an event? They are more likely to do them during town festivals, etc

No, it was just a standard summer weekend night.

The licensed drivers without alcohol in their systems who aren't speeding seem to be the biggest problem.

Since sober drivers are 1.5 times the threat of drunk drivers perhaps the penalty for driving sober should be 1.5 times the penalty for driving drunk?

I'll point out that in my country, to the best of my knowledge, neither babies nor blind people have caused a fatal accident while behind the wheel. The obvious solution should boost the birth rate, as well as eye poking.

The high dangers on rural, 2-lane, undivided highways has been known for decades. E.g. the first hit on google is this one from 2009:
(I believe that other research has shown that a road being undivided is the biggest risk factor; two-lanes means that drivers don't have the option of driving in a lane that's farther away from oncoming traffic; and rural means that you can zoom along at 20 miles over the speed limit whereas on urban 2-lane undivided roads you might be crawling along at 5 mph during rush our -- frustrating, but less danger of fatal car accidents.)

This columnist from Iowa still likes to drive on those rural roads though.

And William Least Heat Moon wrote an entire book about driving on these sorts of roads, "Blue Highways".

As for the increased risks from drinking or not wearing seat belts, that's even older news.

Yeah, "accidents" and "deadly accidents" are very different. The latter do need some force, especially with the robust vehicles these days. I suspect most 2 lane rural accidents are either while overtaking or while winding around a mountain corner with no clear line of sight.

" I suspect most 2 lane rural accidents are either while overtaking or while winding around a mountain corner with no clear line of sight."

I doubt that. Those look risky, but people are paying attention at those times. Most accidents are almost certainly when the driver was either inattentive or was driving way to fast for the conditions (usually wet, ice, worn tires, etc).

From the full article:

"In about 10% of drivers killed in this category, prior to the crash, also referred to as the pre-crash critical event, another vehicle heading in the opposite direction crossed the left lane (i.e., the double yellow line) into the victim’s lane. I think it’s safe to assume that the other driver was responsible for the crash.

However, more often (17% of cases), a driver that is killed on this type of road is the one crossing the lane to his left and encroaching on the opposite lane of travel as the pre-crash critical event."

+1 Fantastic book. Roads to Quoz is also interesting but not as good.

How expensive would it be to separate the lanes on those rural highways? I don't mean full separation or even jersey barriers--maybe just put a pair of rumble strips plus the orange reflective "snow poles" between the lanes?

That's a good question. As expensive as the damage is, it's possible slightly widening a lot of rural roads would be worth it.

But keep in mind, it's the lack of shoulders as well as the lane dividers that matter. A lot of rural roads have no shoulder, so drivers tend to drive closer to the center line or even over it. When I was younger I routinely drove over the center line on the back roads at night, because I could easily get back over when I saw lights coming. Whereas, driving completely on my side, left me at the mercy of deer who would often be standing at the side of the road. Not to mention tree limbs, other animals the occasional mail box and sometimes a washed out road side.

It would be interesting to drill down further into the width of the 2-lane road/ROW. It might be that a wider road gives drivers the feeling they can go faster. And particularly given that there are basically two popular and competing styles of rural driving - too fast, and very slow - that might be particularly problematic.

"there are basically two popular and competing styles of rural driving - too fast, and very slow "

That's not my experience. Generally the two styles are 10 mph over the speed limit and the car flying past the guy going 10 mph over.

Sure, you have the occasional tractor or 70 year old going slow, but that's true everywhere.

One of the deadlier collision types is a fast moving car striking an immobile object. Rural drivers who lose control, run off the road and hit a tree probably comprise a large fraction of the fatalities.

+ 1 on lack of shoulders. I live in an area that used to be rural and is still rural-ish and there are narrow 2 lane roads with trees right up to the road in many/most places. People tend to hug or cross the double yellow. And distracted drivers (mostly texting) drift across the double yellow. I've had to tell my kids don't hesitate to honk early. So there are two common types of accident - meet in the middle - and just a little overlap will do the trick - or, what also happens is inexperienced drivers jerk the wheel to the right (over correcting) and hit a tree.

Very expensive, which is why it isn't done. Lots and lots of miles of rural public two lane roads. Very few people to pay for it (people who are also the predominant beneficiaries of that spending). Also passing on two lane rural roads is often desirable because there may be, for example, a tractor, in your lane moving very slowly.

The DWI laws have a huge blind spot. Some people have a dependence or addiction to alcohol, start drinking in the morning.

An alcoholic may be caught before killing someone while DUI if other misdemeanors of felonies that involve alcohol lead to a driving ban. For example: public intoxication, public disorder, domestic violence while inebriated, etc.

If someone drinks and cause trouble, it's just a matter of time until harming others while driving drunk. Why wait until the crash to retreat the driving permit? If I remember Texas well, there's something like this for under 21 drivers. Once you're 21, public intoxication charges do not yield a permit loss.

Ignition interlock already exists.

What lacks is the pubic will and Constitutionally allowed legal tools to use it.

It would not be unconstitutional to make ignition interlocks a mandatory safety feature on all vehicles. It is strictly a matter of public will.

Make it illegal to live and work in rural areas.

Force everyone to live in dense multifamily housing.

Make all rural land Federal wilderness areas with no roads allowed, accessible only to people on foot, or beasts of burden. ATVs have high death rates from drinking and excessive speed.

Provide access to these wilderness areas by rail, just like from circa 1870 to 1920 when most of the wilderness lodges were built by railroads to boost passenger business.

#MAGA - take America back to 1890!

Four Trillion-dollar Market Cap corporations represent 20% to 25% of aggregate US equities' market capitalization.



Trump 2020!

Sarcasm fail.

An obviously intentionally extreme proposal. But, economic incentives to encourage living and working in urban areas or in rural small towns rather than the middle of nowhere are not. It is mostly a historical accident that American rural areas have greatly distributed housing, while European farmers tend to live in small towns with many houses together, with farmers commuting short distances during the day while sober to their fields.

I am a road cyclist. What I've noticed is just how reckless people are when driving. It's impossible not to notice when I'm riding my road cycle since I'm at risk of being run over by these folks. I've been run off the road more times than I can count. For a time I thought these folks were angry, angry at me for riding a road cycle while they ride around in tanks large enough to carry their lard asses or angry at the world for some real or perceived slight. But over time I realized these folks aren't angry, they are stupid. There is no cure for stupid, but there is a way to restrict stupid folks from driving a car: require an IQ test to get a driver's license. I'd also require a temperament test: hot tempered folks ought not drive what is a deadly weapon. We have round a bouts in my low country community. They work very well but only if folks navigate them correctly, which means adjusting one's speed as one approaches the round a bout so one can easily merge into the space between cars. Driving up to the round a bout, stopping, and then looking for a space to merge is not how they are intended to work. Then there are the angry or stupid folks who accelerate in the round a bout to close the gap between him and the car ahead in order to block anyone from merging into it as it was designed. I'd station an officer at the round a bout and suspend the driver's licenses of anybody who exhibits such angry or stupid behavior. Angry or stupid should disqualify anyone from getting or keeping a driver's license.

You could have a separate post on the problems caused by road cyclists. I am a cyclist and generally supportive.

But it seems like about 25% of them are white men in spandex looking for something to be mad about.

lol. What do you do about the people who lose their minds at other people exercising while in spandex?

I know someone who lives up a massively wide 4 lane road(*), with separate bike lane, who complains about the spandex .. because she can still see people exercising, apparently.

* - like 1.5 the normal width for each lane

Cyclists need to be careful. Don't assume the motorist sees you.

Last July, a close friend in Fremont, CA was busted up by a person that ran a STOP sign. His left arm and shoulder are now all metal rods and screws. He is still recovering, which may not be complete recovery. He is on the east end right up against the mountains: I always worries he would be attacked by a mountain lion.

On most people, Spandex is almost as unattractive as women traipsing around all day in yoga pants.

I bike a lot, but do not own any spandex. If you buried me in spandex I'd come back and haunt you. The stuff looks good on no one.

I agree with you, Jack. I am also a cyclist. I think the ones with a chip on their shoulder bike pretty much the same way they drive. Some people find a reason to scream at other people on the road, no matter what vehicle those other people are on -- bike, car, whatever.

as a road biker i can tell you i have been tempted to see how far i could send off my car bumper more than a few of my fellow less enlightened biker peers. who i can only conclude are daring me like a toreador instigates a bull.

the worst are those who insist on riding two abreast occupying a full lane and pretending that cars are not there.

no one asks for it in terms of getting hurt, but these dolts are asking for it

Riding two abreast halves the amount of cyclist you have to pass at once.

A car will not safely fit with one bike in all but the widest lanes and will need to go into the other lane anyway.

i disagree. two riders tightly single file, staying as close to the shoulder as possible, are far easier to pass than two abreast, with one nearly over to the middle yellow stripe. especially if you want to honor a three foot passing gap.

two abreast are essentially the same as a dump truck crawling in compound low.

two abreast are going to feel my side view mirror brush their arm hairs

Say two feet for the cyclist, three foot buffer, and a 6.5 foot F150 will be over in the other lane on a road with 11 foot lanes. Hope the on coming traffic is paying attention.

yes either way you are crossing the yellow.

the question is how far, how much margin you then have, and then if you come a nearly complete stop and crawl for a while before doing so

I am not familiar with any state laws which relegate a bike to second class status/priority on a road. It has (does it not?) right to the entire lane, just like any other vehicle.

its a mixed bag, but many states in fact require single file

"I am not familiar with any state laws which relegate a bike to second class status/priority on a road. "

Not a state law but the law of conservation of momentum certainly relegates them to second class status.

Some people find a reason to scream at other people on the road, no matter what vehicle those other people are on -- bike, car, whatever.

This phenomenon can be observed among internet commenters too.

Yeah, exactly. "Why is it that there are stupid people who make me mad, no matter where I go?!?" There is a common denominator in that question.

Ray, it's probably just people who know you.

Intelligence has nothing to do with good driving (I assume we're talking within normal bounds). Distracted driving is the biggest problems, followed by aggressive driving. IQ is not a factor in either.

3 of out every 4 deaths in a car occur on the freeway, at an intersection/junction, or on a rural road with a single lane in each direction.

This does not seem particularly insightful. Freeways, intersections, and two-lane roads seem to be at least 75% of the total space on which cars drive. The remainder are: (1) neighborhood streets, (2) parking lots, and (3) multi-lane, non-freeway highways. Speeds in these locations are typically too low to cause fatalities.

So, yeah. 75% of fatalities occur on about 75% of the total traffic conditions. Seems about right.

The author doesn't cite the appropriate figures, so I looked them up. Rural two lane highways are about four times more likely to produce a fatality per vehicle mile traveled as freeways and about four times more likely to produce a fatality per vehicle mile travelled as any urban public road.

He seriously underestimated the effect of weather on safety, citing no stats on that. In fact, even light rain significantly raises the risk of a fatal crash. Even worse, he completely missed the greatly elevated risk of night driving vs daytime driving.

On the other hand -- people often do not grasp the amazing increases in travel safety. In 1924 (the first year of records) the fatality rate was 24 per 100M vehicle miles. In 2014 it was down to 1 per 100M vehicle miles. Of course we can do better, but even now, despite the necessity of having to do a lot of driving on 2-lane highways, residents of many rural counties enjoy long lifespans. Which is not surprising because leading medical causes taken together are ~50x more deadly than driving.

As I understand its the three leading causes of death in the USA are (i) heart disease, (ii) cancers, (iii) doctors.

I suspect that the third category is contentious. Which needn't mean it's untrue. Anyway, avoid drunken or sleep-deprived doctors.

Avoid dearie me comments above all else. They dampen the mind and slow the wits.

Part of the difference in fatalities in rural v. urban areas is the time it takes first responders to learn of the crash and respond, and the proximity of the accident to a Level I trauma center once they do. Urban accidents produce fewer fatalities than rural accidents do, in part, because urban accident victims receive prompt, state of the art medical care more often.

No, it's all the deer. They're like suicide bombers.

unpoliced vacant straight sections, long sections of nothing, followed by tight curves, bordered by trees and ditches. these are drunk, sleepy, distracted, and teen driver death traps.

i wonder what a carload of drunk teens not wearing seat belts does to the stats. i can tell you they must compose 80% here by head count.

most of the wrecks are rollovers due to missed curves and overcorrections, with an occasional but rare head on. swerves being far more frequent. large animals on the road lead to swerves which lead to a rollover also. dry pavement ironically induces higher speeds.

the popularity of roadside crosses and shrines to deadly accidents is helpful as warning signals for the worst curves.

27% of fatal accidents on rural two lane roads are either head on or left turn against traffic t-bone accidents (per the article).

did you derive that? i dont remember seeing that.

in any case my experience is anecdotal. i can think of at least a dozen rollovers and into the ditches in memory. but only recall one head on

Obviously the common factor is the driver. They were all humans. Human's are terrible drivers. We should expedite autonomous systems and start deploying them when they are roughly at the safety level of a non-distracted, non-impaired middle aged human driver.

As much as I am loathe to turn over yet more control and data to Zuck Bezos, et al, I have recently become a full and enthusiastic supporter of driverless cars.

Most people suck at driving and they are getting worse. I surrender; big tech please save us.

Humans are terrible drivers. We should expedite autonomous systems

Humans in the U.S. have a fatality rate of about 1 per 100 million vehicle miles traveled. If you drive 10,000 miles a year, you could expect to be involved in a fatal accident once every 10,000 years. Is this a safety record that autonomous systems will easily exceed? What makes you think so? Have all the autonomous vehicles on the road driven more than 100M miles combined? And of the miles drive autonomously, how many have been in the most dangerous conditions (night, slippery roads, fog/rain/snow, indistinct lane markings, etc)?

fatal is the wrong standard for the ai conversation

I believe Tesla is at roughly two billion autopilot miles. You can argue about the safety level, but it's at least in the ballpark of human safety already.

Has Tesla been driving on real roads of the all kinds in all conditions? Or on contrived courses in the best conditions.

That's why I caveated it. It's mostly on freeways and generally higher speed roads as I understand it. City traffic isn't handled well yet, but cruising is. So probably more dangerous roads are over-represented, but likely under relatively benign conditions.

I was very skeptical of self-driving cars for quite a while, but I think you have to come around. Tesla is pretty successful.

"So probably more dangerous roads are over-represented, but likely under relatively benign conditions."

Freeways are the easiest case for autonomous vehicles (limited access, no pedestrians or cyclists, extremely wide shoulders and road-sides, fencing to keep out animals, all traffic moving in the same direction, well-marked lanes, no intersections)

Well yeah, and slow city driving is the hardest for AI. But freeways kill a lot more people than toodling around at 15mph. It happens that the easiest case is the highest payoff case.

Don't let the a desire for the 100% solution blind you to the advantages of the 85% solution. Imagine, I think implausibly at this point, that self-driving cars will never work in snow. Wouldn't they still be a wonderful thing?

Looking at Waymo's figures their self driving cars appear much safer than human drivers on average. But Tesla appears to be way behind on self driving.

Looking forward to full scale testing of robo-taxis here in Australia. Labor costs are around one-third of the cost of a taxi trip here. Not such a good deal for taxi drivers though.

I was under the impression that Waymo had something like one one-thousandth of Tesla's autopilot miles, and that they were all in California. Plus, aren't they still relying on LIDAR? To be sure, they have some other advantages, but those are pretty big disadvantages.

But I'm not saying they can't succeed and wasn't meaning to say anything bad about them at all. In fact, I'm arguing that self-driving is another one of those problems that looked harder than it turned out to be when people really tried.

" Have all the autonomous vehicles on the road driven more than 100M miles combined? "

Crashes with injuries are much more common. There are about 100x crashes with injuries for each fatality. And 16-17 year olds are about 3-4 times more likely to cause a crash with an injury/fatality.

Tesla has over 100M miles of AutoPilot driving (though this is limited to when you can engage it. Google has around 20M of fully autonomous.


Autonomous cars aren't quite ready but they are close and they will drastically cut down on injuries and fatalities when they roll out.

Autonomous cars aren't quite ready but they are close

That's another thing we don't know. How much harder is it to drive through rain, fog and snow (where visual imagery ins deteriorated and Lidar can bounce back off raindrops and snowflakes)? Just a 'little' harder? Or exponentially harder? What about snow-covered roads? Are we really going to need ground penetrating radar? We wouldn't be talking about Lidar and ground-penetrating radar if AI vision systems were close to human capabilities. They're just not. So I remain a skeptic. I think that it's likely that the last remaining 'little' obstacles may turn out to be insurmountable in the following years and perhaps decades.

what attracts me is they will vastly improve traffic flow, esp. when they can talk to each other

imagine no more panic breaking, random slowdowns, or gapers blocks. imagine cars accelerating briskly from lights and into traffic.

Ideally there would be fewer driver error collisions and hence fewer backups for that reason. But construction and congested delays will still happen. Those are just due to the physics of flow and autodrive cats do not repeal that.

Autodrive CARS, not cats. Accursed smart phone autocorrect!

"imagine no more panic breaking"

Another pipe dream. We are incredibly far from the point where ALL vehicles on the road could be required to be autonomous (and are we going to ban motorcycles and bicycles? How about Amish buggies?) and keep in mind that there will always be plenty of other objects in the driving environment that can create a need for sudden emergency braking (pedestrians, falling rocks, fallen trees, flooded roadways, blowing debris, separated tire treads, loose cargo, animals, cyclists, etc, etc).

Autonomous cars aren't quite ready but they are close

Haven't noticed any similar but simpler applications yet. No autonomous lawn mowers, farm tractors or the easiest of all, Zamboni ice resurfacers. Don't hold your breath waiting for driverless cars.

At the moment it generally doesn't make sense to automate zambonis and lawnmowers because most are used infrequently. But automated ones do exist. As do automated tractors and mining trucks. Self driving technology is likely to move from cars to farm tractors and lawnmowers. The market for automated cars is larger than for zambonis, lawnmowers, or tractors.

Gimme a break! Wouldn't lawn care companies love to be able to dispense with their "low skill" south of the border immigrants and simply drop off an autonomous mower at every location on their schedule? There are, after all, millions of lawns in North America and in a culture where a television remote is needed to eliminate trips across the living room autonomous lawn mowers look like an eventual necessity. The main point is that the implementation of ice resurfacers, farm tractors and lawn mowers doesn't involve dealing with traffic. It should be easy. But it's not being done.

I'm envisioning out of control automatic lawn mowers cutting crazy patterns in people's lawns, mowing down their flower gardens, chasing children and pets.

As usual, no mention is made of dogs in the passenger compartment, an obvious distraction, and what must be a factor in a significant number of fatal accidents but isn't apparent because NO STATISTICS are kept. At the same time percentages are given as to alcohol and speeding. Dead motorists might be tested for alcohol and witnesses may be able to testify as to the speed of the cars involved but these factors can't possibly be recognized in every traffic fatality. Peter's advice is good but the statistics he analyzes aren't specific enough to paint an accurate picture of the situation. Cops and ambulance crews spend hours at the scene of fatalities. Every possible detail should be recorded and used. How many dead in car accidents are found with ketchup on the front of their shirts? No one knows.

Dog-carrying cars all aquire that special funk. Cops that smell this have probable cause to search for concealed dogs.

It took a few years for people to learn to get out of the way. We saw the same phenomenon with light rail.

I had the opportunity years ago to take a 2 day formal defensive driving course, taught by professional driving safety people. One of their main messages was to do whatever you could to avoid a head-on collision, because they were most likely to lead to a fatality.

Its entirely believable that head-on collisions at highway speeds (as you would get on rural undivided roads) are associated with most deaths.

The life I save will never be my own, but if I'm in a dashed-line zone I try to slow, move over into the shoulder, and make passing easier for trucks/cars behind me. Is that a womanish thing to do? 'Cuz they're going to make that pass come what may, however ill-advised. I wonder if they can program the driverless cars to acknowledge this reality.

If you haven't actually been there, I can tell you that in the 0.2 seconds before a highway head on crash, nothing but avoidance is in your mind!
I'm surprised that no one mentions the airbags that helped save our lives.

You're right - As I mentioned above, as someone who lives in a rural-ish area with tree lined streets - the mistake inexperienced drivers make is they jerk the wheel to the right to avoid the head on collision and hit a tree - which sadly is just as fatal.

The problem may be self-limiting, as all the drunken angry rural rednecks, who think seat-belts are tyranny, will eventually die off in car accidents, thus removing their genes from the gene pool.

On the other hand, if they have kids, their deaths will leave behind fatherless children who will grow up to be drunken and angry men, so there's some positive feedback there as well.

Seriously though, add an extra lane with the turn lane in the middle that nobody is supposed to drive in.

their deaths will leave behind fatherless children

Obviously there's no such thing as an impaired female behind the wheel.

Once there was a female. Who was an impaired driver. But then again, I repeat myself.

Fair point, although men do cause most drunk driving accidents.

In 2010, men were responsible for four out of every five DUIs. And although only 11% of the adult population is made up of males between the ages of 21 and 34, this high-risk group was responsible for 32% of all drunk driving episodes. Last, but certainly not least, binge drinkers also fall into this high-risk group of those most likely to drink and drive. In fact, a male who drank at least five alcoholic beverages in a short amount of time (or a female who drank at least four) caused 85% of all reported drunk driving incidents.

Do my eyes deceive, or do I see NO mention whatsoever in the posted excerpt of the contributions to fatal automobile accidents made by wireless telephony?

Wireless telephony contributes NOTHING to the incidence of fatal automobile crashes? Never ever? Nowhere? (How could we compare these stats with stats for non-fatal car crashes if no one reports the relevant data?)

How much might wireless telephone service providers be paying to suppress these data in popular news accounts?

Add in being sick. Both having a cold and being on the phone have been 'proved' to have a greater effect than DUI.

I developed a fever at work a few years ago and went home sick. The drive home was actually scary. If I'd guzzled a fifth of tequila I couldn't have been more impaired.

You don't hear about it much anymore because the more recent studies found that fatalities actually went down when drivers were using the phone (albeit when handsfree). I seem to recall that the IIHS speculated that drivers reduce other distractions (radio, food) during those times.

Talking on a phone- maybe. But texting? Web browsing?

I bet look at the difference by state would give a hint.
At first look, it looks like the more urban the fewer fatalities per mile, and the later the development the more fatalities.
I'm from RI but have lived in FL for a long time. The FL roads, all built after the automobile became ubiquitous, seem crazy to me.

What happened to the belief that seat belts cause more deaths?

Two years ago this thread would have been dominated by that argument.

Tyler has been weeding such idiots from the MR comments section, thus improving the level of conversation immeasurably.

And what did Attia tell you re driving that u did not already know? The man clearly likes to hear himself spout off whether on life issues or nutrition with so much of his longevity suggestions speculative at best and yet people pay for his advice.

Without knowing the base rate of how many people are driving with alcohol in their systems, how can he determine that impaired driving is a big concern? If half of us are boozing up every time we're about to get behind the wheel (for liquid courage), but only 40% of fatal accidents involve alcohol, then it seems that maybe failure to drink is causing these crashes (the nerves just aren't steady). I don't condone drinking and driving, but this article could have been one paragraph long: Driving is dangerous. There's not a lot you can do to prevent others from harming you. The best prevention is to be cautious and aware of your surroundings.

He's right that impaired driving is a problem. Even on weekend evenings, the DWAI intoxication level is found in only 1.5% of drivers and it is lower on weekday non-holiday evenings and during the day. But, he does a poor job of proving that fact.

Multiple big flaws in the analysis. It doesn't evaluate accidents by road type relative to vehicle miles travelled on each type of road (which makes freeways seem safer and rural two lane road more dangerous). It doesn't compare the frequency of factors like speeding, intoxication and driving without a license to the rates of those behaviors in people who don't get into accidents (which greatly reduces the relevance of speeding and reduces the significance of driving without a license). And, the author looks only at what you can do personally to avoid accidents rather than traffic engineering and collective solutions (like roundabouts to reduce fatalities in small intersections). I refined the analysis at https://washparkprophet.blogspot.com/2020/02/the-causes-of-deadly-car-accidents.html

"Without knowing the base rate of how many people are driving with alcohol in their systems, how can he determine that impaired driving is a big concern?" That is an excellent question. I have frequently driven at a point where I would go to jail if I was given a breathalyzer test. But I haven't had an accident or a ticket in decades. I'm pretty sure there are a lot of "impaired" drivers out there who never get caught until someone else causes them to get in an accident.

Driving with a BAC over 0.08 increases the risk of a fatal accident by a factor well in excess of 24. It is the single biggest risk factor, relative to baseline rates in the likelihood of a fatal accident.

But that is the "risk factor" for people who have already died in an accident. I'm thinking these are mostly people who are younger and not used to driving under the influence. Of course I don't recommend this, I'm just suggesting that the statistics are skewed towards people who are involved in accidents. No one has a record of drunk drivers that are not arrested and not involved in accidents.

do those stats differentiate between driving 0.08 and .40?

The thing I'm wondering is what proportion of "rural" roads are 3 or 4 lanes? (in the usa; in China, there are or were not so long ago roads to nowhere...)

A few comments.

(1) All the talk of alcohol, and no discussion of mary jane. Driving stoned has got to be dangerous, and as it gets legalized, we will see more accidents.

(2) Falling asleep at the wheel is a cause of accidents. Obviously, more of an issue at night. Cars drift into other lanes and cause a head-on collision. Less sleep deprivation is a solution, and dashboard alerts about drifting.

(3) A fireman acquaintance told me in his work on accidents, he never unbelted a corpse. Seat belts work.

(4) Our data is distorted. Trauma medicine has gotten so much better, that many accidents that would have been fatal are now treatable. But people can still be disabled or severely injured. We need a broader statistic to cover serious crashes, not just fatalities.

(5) I am waiting of A.I. When the entire babyboom generation is over 65 years and refuses to give up the keys, there will be hell to pay on the highways.

Legalizing MJ to increase the rate of accidents with drives who have used MJ, but it reduces total vehicle fatalities due to shifts from alcohol consumption which is more likely to lead to fatal driving accidents, to MJ with is less likely to do so. Seatbelts use reduces the risk of a fatal accident by about a factor of five. Fatalities are worth measuring, and there are serious injury accident statistics but they are just less widely publicized in part because of issues over what counts as serious that make them less comparable. But, trauma medicine improvement no doubt is an important factor in declining accident fatalities and in the fact that rural accidents are more often deadly relative to urban ones.

Driving stoned may have certain dangers, but I suspect that it is less likely to cause high speed collisions. i.e. the stoned driver is more likely to drive really slowly and make wrong turns, not so much try to drive at 100 mph weaving all over the highway. The fatality rate will probably be lower.

fwiw legalization is accompanied with stepped-up focus on detection and enforcement of driving stoned. And presumably improved technology for detection.

There are collisions where a seat belt won't save you, like getting hit by a train. But yes, death and serious injury is vastly less likely if belted.

As of 2017, rural two lane road account for about 17% of vehicle-miles travelled in the U.S. (giving the benefit of the doubt to smaller roads on the margins in rural areas). About 4% of VMT is on smaller rural roads. About 34% is on freeways. About 45% is on urban roads other than freeways. https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/policyinformation/statistics/2017/vm202.cfm

Perhaps a more rational analysis would first ask "What proportion of accidents are driver error?" I'm sure I'm not alone in assuming nearly all accidents are driver error. Although there's projectile or falling objects, mechanical failure and aggression to name other causes.

@neurotic. I think a better way to think of it would be "What accident related fatalities and injuries could be prevented with better traffic and vehicle design?" and "What accident related fatalities and injuries could be prevented with programs designed to change driver behavior (such as PR and law enforcement campaigns)?"

Add large animal dashing into the road as well.

So I just re-read this and I am wondering if they are referring to suburban feeder and secondary roads as rural two lane roads. Those are two entirely different creatures.

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