What are Your Chances of Being Involved in a Vehicle Crash?

Vehicle Accidents
Motor Vehicle Safety

If you haven't been in a car accident and have been driving 15 years, you’re either lucky or due to be involved in one in the near future. Car insurance.com Opens a New Window. , an online clearing house for auto insurance consumers, figures you will file a claim for an accident once every 17.9 years. And that's for average drivers.

Fortunately, the odds suggest that your accident won't be deadly. About 10 million of all kinds of collisions occur each year, ranging from a little parking lot fender-bender to a multi-car pile-up. But the National Safety Council told us a few years ago that their research concluded that only three of every 1,000 wrecks involves a fatality. 

That doesn’t mean, however, that a crash won’t be costly. More than two million Americans are injured in crashes every year. In 2016, the average auto liability claim for property damage was $3,683. The average auto liability claim for bodily injury was $16,110, thanks in large part to soaring medical costs, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

The following chart, also compiled by the Institute, is part of a larger survey it conducted – Odds of Dying from Accidental Injuries – and covers the year 2014. The statistics below show the likelihood, or odds, of any one person dying in a vehicle-related accident.

Cause of Death Total (2014)  One-Year Odds Lifetime Odds
All motor vehicle accidents 35,398 1 in 9,008 1 in 114
Car occupants 6,274 “   50,822 “    45
Motorcycle riders 4,106 “   77,656 “  985
Pedestrian incident 6,258 “   50,952 “  647

Don't drive impaired. Drivers who are impaired by alcohol or drugs are the No. 1 cause of accidents. A full one-third of all fatal vehicle wrecks in the U.S. are caused by drunk drivers. 

The Best Ways to Avoid Becoming an Accident Statistic

The legal threshold for driving under the influence is 0.08 BAC in all 50 states, though Utah will drop theirs to 0.05 before 2018 is over. That lower level is where the risk of a car crash starts rising. A BAC of 0.05 -- completely street-legal today – increases your odds of wrecking your car by 100% over someone who has not had a drink at all. And at 0.08, your crash odds have tripled. Your weight and gender also greatly influence your BAC. It takes a 160-pound man only two drinks in an hour to reach a BAC of 0.05. But if you're a 120-pound woman, 2 drinks will land you squarely in 0.08 territory.

Keep your eyes on the road. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) data reveals that 3,450 fatalities were attributed to distracted driving in 2016, with smartphones being the biggest culprit. That breaks down to approximately 9 deaths and more than 1,000 injuries each day. And over 5,500 traffic deaths involved some sort of driver distraction, such as car technology, talking to passengers, eating, and applying makeup, to name a few of those cited by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Don't drive during the “fatal” hours. The deadliest times on American roadways are between midnight and 3 a.m. on the weekends (Saturdays and Sundays) according to the NHTSA. And two-thirds of fatal accidents during the fatal hours are caused by alcohol-impaired driving. So think twice before you make that 2 a.m. run to McDonald’s, especially if you’ve had a few drinks.

Watch your speed. Another one-third of all fatal accidents are attributed to speeding or driving too fast for conditions. After impaired driving, speeding is the single greatest contributor to car wrecks. And if you’ve been caught speeding, you know how insurance companies love to bump your rates when you get a couple of those tickets on your driving record. 

Drive defensively. A bit of paranoia is just good thinking when you get behind the wheel. It makes you wary of all drivers, which is the first step to becoming a defensive driver. Defensive driving is nothing more than a collection of good habits that places you a few nanoseconds ahead of drivers who might do something surprisingly dangerous. Pay attention to your surroundings and mentally prepare yourself for the unanticipated. And don’t forget that approved defensive driving courses get you a 10% discount on your Texas liability insurance.

You can be the safest driver on the planet and still find that some things are beyond your control when behind the wheel -- like negligent or careless drivers such as those we described above.  When that happens and you are the victim of a crash, remember that you have legal options to protect your interests. They might begin with having an experienced PI attorney help you file an insurance claim against the driver who hit you.

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