Road Management & Engineering Journal
Road Management & Engineering Journal
March, 2000
TranSafety, Inc.
(360) 683-6276
Fax: (360) 335-6402

Roadside Hazards

(This article is reproduced, with permission, from the website of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety at http://www.highwaysafety.org.)

About a third of motor vehicle deaths involve vehicles leaving the roadway and hitting fixed objects such as trees or utility poles alongside the road. Almost all such crashes involve only 1 vehicle. Roadside hazard crashes occur in both urban and rural areas but are mostly a problem on rural roads. They're most likely to occur on curves and/or downhill road sections. More than a third involve a vehicle that rolls over, and about a third involve occupant ejection. Trees are by far the most common objects struck in roadside hazard crashes.

Alcohol is a frequent contributing factor in these crashes. Motorists also run off the road because of excessive speed, fatigue, or inattention. Efforts to reduce these driver errors are only somewhat effective, so it's important to shield or remove stationary objects or avoid putting them along roads in the first place, especially roads where vehicles are more likely to leave the pavement.

The following facts are based on analysis of data from the U.S. Department of Transportation's Fatality Analysis Reporting System:

CRASH TYPES

OBJECTS STRUCK

ROAD TYPES

TABLES

DEATHS IN ROADSIDE HAZARD CRASHES AS A PERCENT OF ALL MOTOR VEHICLE DEATHS
  Deaths Percent
1975 10,960 25
1976 11,486 25
1977 11,535 24
1978 12,473 25
1979 14,309 28
1980 15,232 30
1981 14,076 29
1982 12,428 28
1983 12,178 29
1984 12,455 28
1985 12,234 28
1986 13,332 29
1987 12,938 28
1988 13,141 28
1989 12,742 28
1990 12,783 29
1991 12,199 29
1992 11,485 29
1993 11,292 28
1994 11,237 28
1995 12,015 29
1996 11,906 28
1997 11,797 28
1998 11,809 28

 

OCCUPANT DEATHS IN ROADSIDE HAZARD CRASHES BY AGE AND GENDER, 1998
Age Male Female Total
< 13 153 136 289
13-19 1,413 683 2,096
20-34 3,506 871 4,378
35-44 1,440 504 1,945
45-54 948 266 1,214
55-64 501 197 698
65+ 757 417 1,174
Total 8,729 3,078 11,809

 

DISTRIBUTION OF ROADSIDE HAZARD CRASH DEATHS BY ROAD TYPE, 1998
  Percent
Freeway 18
Major road 48
Minor road 34

 

DISTRIBUTION OF SINGLE-VEHICLE ROADSIDE HAZARD CRASH DEATHS BY POINT OF PRINCIPAL IMPACT, 1998
  Percent
Front 67
Right side 10
Left side 10
Rear 3
Top <1
Undercarriage 4
Other/unknown 5

 

PERCENT OF SINGLE-VEHICLE ROADSIDE HAZARD CRASH DEATHS INVOLVING ROLLOVER, BY OBJECT STRUCK, 1998
  Percent
Embankment 67
Ditch 64
Boulder 53
Highway sign support 53
Culvert 53
Guardrail 51
Other post/pole 49
Fence 47
Bridge rail 46
Concrete/other barrier 46
Other 42
Wall 37
Curb 32
Utility pole 24
Bridge pier 22
Light support 22
Tree/shrub 20
Building 9
ALL 40

 

DISTRIBUTION OF DEATHS IN ROADSIDE HAZARD CRASHES BY TIME OF DAY, 1998
  Percent
Midnight - 3 am 21
3 am - 6 am 12
6 am - 9 am 8
9 am - Noon 7
Noon - 3 pm 10
3 pm - 6 pm 12
6 pm - 9 pm 12
9 pm - Midnight 16



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