Defensive Driving Facts

There's no denying that driving can be dangerous, especially when you or the drivers around you aren't practicing safe, defensive driving. Motor vehicle accidents are responsible for thousands of fatalities and injuries annually, and in almost every case, human error is to blame. Distracted, drunk, and drowsy driving are especially dangerous -- and deadly -- habits on the road. Consider these facts that illustrate how dangerous it can be to drive every day -- and how important it is that you learn how to drive defensively so that you can predict, manage, and avoid accidents to the best of your abilities.

Driving Can be Fatal

Driving is to blame for thousands of injuries and billions in damage annually, but it's fatalities on the road that are especially disturbing. These statistics share how dangerous driving mistakes can be.

  • Each year, approximately 32,719 people die in motor vehicle crashes (III)
  • 6,337 people are injured in motor vehicle crashes every day (III)
  • 90 people die in motor vehicle crashes daily (III)
  • Each year, there are more than 1,700 fatalities and 840,000 injuries due to vehicle crashes off of public highways (NHTSA)
  • Young drivers are especially at risk. They represent only 14% of the United States population, but account for 28%-30% of the total costs of motor vehicle injuries (CDC)
  • Approximately 2,164 teens in the United States are killed and 243,243 are injured in motor vehicle crashes (CDC)
  • Six teens die every day from motor vehicle crashes (CDC)
  • Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for young people from five to 34 (III)

What Causes Accidents

How do accidents happen? In these statistics, you'll learn what's at the root of accidents in the United States, including the most dangerous errors and factors in fatal and non-fatal crashes.

  • Human error is responsible for 94% of all crashes (NHTSA)
  • Vehicles, environment, and unknown critical reasons make up the other 6% of crash responsibility (NHTSA)
  • Recognition errors including inattention, distractions, and inadequate surveillance cause the most accidents at 41% (NHTSA)
  • Decision errors such as driving too fast, false assumptions of others' actions, and illegal maneuvers make up 33% of crashes (NHTSA)
  • Performance errors including overcompensation or poor directional control cause 11% of accidents (NHTSA)
  • Non performance errors, most commonly sleep, account for 7% of crashes (NHTSA)
  • Aggressive driving plays a role in 56% of all fatal crashes in the United States, with excessive speed as the number one factor (III)
  • Drowsy driving is involved in 2.2 to 2.6% of total fatal crashes annually NHTSA)
  • Distracted driving is a factor in 3,154 fatalities and 424,000 injuries on the road annually, causing 16% of all motor vehicle crashes (III)
  • Driver fatigue is believed to cause 100,000 police reported crashes annually with 1,550 deaths, 71,000 injuries, and $12.5 billion in monetary losses (NSF)
  • Speeding is a major problem, causing 9,613 fatalities and listed as a contributing factor in 29% of all fatal crashes (III)
  • More than 900 people die and nearly 2,000 people are injured due to red light runners annually, often pedestrians or occupants of other vehicles (III)

Discover the 10 most dangerous driving habits.

Distracted Driving Statistics

Distracted driving is a national epidemic, particularly among young drivers. A quick bite to eat, text, or photo can turn deadly in an instant -- and it's not worth your or anyone else's life. Learn about the dangers of distracted driving in these statistics.

  • Annually, 3,154 people are killed in distracted driving crashes, and 424,000 people are injured (III)
  • Nine Americans are killed each day by distracted driving accidents (CDC)
  • The biggest distractions for drivers are reaching for objects and talking to passengers (III)
  • Texting often takes your eyes off of the road for at least five seconds, long enough to drive the length of a football field while driving at 55 mph (Virginia Tech)
  • One of four United States crashes involves a cell phone (NSC)
  • By reaching for a phone or engaging in other visual-manual subtasks, you'll increase your risk of crashing by three times (Virginia Tech)
  • Drivers in their 20s are most likely to die in fatal distracted driving crashes, making up 27% of such fatalities (NHTSA)
  • About 660,000 drivers in the United States are using electric devices while driving at any given moment (NHTSA)

Find out more about distracted driving and how you can stop it.

Drunk Driving Statistics

It's hardly news that drunk driving is dangerous, yet thousands of drivers continue to engage in this deadly practice every year. These statistics share the cost of drunk driving, both in life and in dollars.

  • Drunk driving crashes cost more than an estimated $37 billion each year (NHTSA)
  • More than 10,000 people die in alcohol impaired driving crashes annually (NHTSA)
  • A fatal drunk driving crash occurs about every 51 minutes (NHTSA)
  • Drunk drivers involved in fatal crashes are often speeding, with 42% of intoxicated drivers speeding compared to 16% of sober drivers (III)
  • 300,000 drivers are impaired daily, and nearly 4,000 are arrested (MADD)
  • Each day, drunk and impaired driving kills 30 Americans, or, once every 51 minutes (CDC)
  • Alcohol is a factor in 31% of all United States traffic related deaths (CDC)
  • 17% of children killed in motor vehicle crashes were involved in alcohol impaired accidents. More than half of them were in the car with an impaired driver (NHTSA)
  • 65% of all drunk driving fatalities are drivers with a blood alcohol concentration of .08% or higher (NHTSA)
  • Even low blood alcohol concentrations can be fatal, with every level of blood alcohol concentration from .02 to .26 causing at least 200 drunk driving crashes each year (NHTSA)
  • Direct DUI costs are estimated to be at least $10,000, in addition to spending an average of six months in jail and three years on probation (CO DOT)
  • Experts estimate that DUI convicts will pay $40,000 in additional auto insurance premiums over 13 years CA Courts)

Learn more about the impact of drunk driving.

Drowsy Driving Statistics

Nodding off at the wheel or slogging through traffic while you're sleepy isn't a minor annoyance: it's dangerous and potentially deadly. Find out how fatal -- and disturbingly common -- drowsy driving is in these statistics.

  • In 2009, 25% of the fatalities on United States roadways involved drowsy driving (NHTSA)
  • An estimated 30,000 injury crashes with reports of drowsy drivers occurred in 2009 (NHTSA)
  • Sleep related crashes are most common among young drivers. Men, adults with children, and shift workers are particularly at risk (NSF)
  • Sleeping for six to seven hours a night makes you twice as likely to be involved in a sleep related crash. Sleeping less than five hours increases your risk by four to five times (NSF)
  • Being awake for 18 hours results in an impairment that's equal to a blood alcohol concentration of .05. At 24 hours, the impairment reaches the .10 blood alcohol concentration level, higher than .08 which is considered legally drunk (NSF)
  • Drowsy drivers are often more stressed, impatient, and tend to drive faster (NSF)
  • 37% of drivers report that they've fallen asleep behind the wheel in their lifetime (AAA)
  • 28.3% of licensed drivers report that they've had a hard time keeping their eyes open while driving within the last month (AAA)
  • Only one in five drivers pulls over to nap when driving drowsy (NSF)

While there's not much you can to do stop impaired, distracted, aggressive, or drowsy drivers, you can do something about the way you drive around them. With a qualified defensive driving course, you can learn how to avoid many of the dangers presented by other drivers -- and avoid becoming one of these statistics.

Photo by Flickr user statefarm

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