13 Factors That Increase the Risk of Dying in a Car Accident

Despite being preventable, car accidents are a leading cause of death in the United States. According to CDC data, over 35,000 people lost their lives in auto accidents in 2014. More than 250 of those fatalities occurred in Utah, largely in Salt Lake County. Yet location isn’t the only factor that increases the risk of dying in a crash. Salt Lake City car accident lawyer Darwin Overson examines patterns in fatal Utah auto accidents to identify 13 factors that appear to increase the statistical likelihood of being killed in a car crash. While drivers don’t have control over all of these factors, there are some you can change to improve your safety on the road.

13 Risk Factors that Make You More Likely to Be Killed in a Car Crash

Certain risk factors for fatal car accidents, like your age, simply can’t be altered. However, by avoiding or at least being conscious of some of the actions and circumstances that are commonly reported in deadly crashes, you can decrease your odds of being fatally injured in an accident.

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The following statistics are taken from the Department of Public Safety’s 2015 report on auto accidents in Utah.

Age – Unfortunately, this is a factor you simply can’t change, but being in your twenties or early fifties seems to increase the risk of dying in a car accident. According to the Utah Department of Public Safety, which issues an annual report on fatal accident trends in Utah, these were the top three age groups with the highest numbers of accident fatalities in 2015:

  • 20 to 24 years old – 32 fatalities
  • 25 to 29 years old – 30 fatalities
  • 50 to 54 years old – 24 fatalities

Driving Maneuvers – Most auto accidents are caused by human error, which is avoidable with care and caution. Driving under the influence and failing to stop at red lights were the most common violations involved in fatal crashes, with four fatalities directly attributed to each. The top four most common contributing factors to fatal accidents were:

  • Speeding too fast – 72 fatal crashes
  • Driving in poor visibility weather – 35 fatal crashes
  • Failing to stay in the proper lane – 28 fatal crashes
  • Failing to yield right-of-way – 28 fatal crashes

Driving Maneuvers – You might guess that complex driving maneuvers were a common culprit in fatal crashes, but in fact, the simple act of driving straight was the most common pre-crash maneuver by a wide margin. Driving straight ahead was the pre-accident maneuver in 327 fatal crashes last year. By comparison, the second most common maneuver – stopping in a traffic lane – preceded 31 fatal accidents. Stay particularly alert when driving straight, because this is the time you are most likely to be involved in a deadly crash.

Gender – Men are significantly more likely to die in car crashes than women. Nearly 70% of fatal Utah crash victims in 2015 were male, and more than twice as many men (190) were killed in accidents as women (88). However, the pattern flipped when it came to non-fatal injuries, which were more likely to strike women, who made up more than half of the non-fatal injury victims reported last year.

Intoxication – This factor shouldn’t come as a surprise, though you may be startled to learn just how many fatal accidents are caused, or contributed to, by driving while intoxicated. According to 2015 DPS data, alcohol was involved in only 3.4% of Utah’s total crashes, yet 12% of its fatal crashes. Alcohol was also a factor in about 13% of the accident fatalities. Most of the deaths were drunk drivers (about 68%), followed by their passengers (about 16%) and the drivers of other vehicles (about 8%). Remember, even if you feel sober, you should always call a cab or have a friend pick you up if you’ve been drinking. It simply isn’t worth the risk – not only to yourself, but to the other drivers around you.

Light Conditions – Fatal accidents are slightly more likely to occur during the day, so you should be extra vigilant during daylight hours. In 2015, a total of 136 fatal crashes (about 53%) happened during the daytime, while 108 fatal accidents (about 42%) happened at night. Measuring by fatal crashes reported in 2015, the three most dangerous times of day to drive in Utah are:

  • 6:00 P.M. to 7:00 P.M. – 26 fatal accidents
  • 2:00 P.M. to 3:00 P.M. – 21 fatal accidents
  • 4:00 P.M. to 5:00 P.M. – 16 fatal accidents

Location – Unfortunately, this is another factor you don’t have much control over. Still, by being aware of the major locations for fatal accidents in Utah, you have a better chance of avoiding a deadly crash. You should be alert and defensive anywhere you drive, especially if your travels take you through any of these counties:

  • Salt Lake County – 72 fatal wrecks
  • Utah County – 35 fatal wrecks
  • Weber County – 20 fatal wrecks
  • Washington County – 17 fatal wrecks
  • Box Elder County – 15 fatal wrecks

Road Type – Needless to say, it’s simply not practical to avoid driving on certain types of roads. But whenever you get behind the wheel, just be aware that deadly crashes are more likely to occur on roads with certain features. About one in five of the fatal accidents reported last year – 51 out of 258 – involved four-way intersections or T-intersections, which, if poorly designed, can confuse even the most experienced drivers. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, intersection accidents accounted for roughly 40% of the 5,811,000 estimated crashes (about 2,324,400 accidents) in 2008.

Bicycle Accident Imminent - 13 Factors That Increase the Risk of Dying in a Car Accident

Speed – Excessive speed increases the risk of being killed in a car, truck, or motorcycle accident, not only because a higher speed will cause a more forceful impact, but also because the driver has less time to avert disaster. According to DPS data, most fatal crashes in 2015 occurred when drivers were traveling from 40 to 69 MPH, as you can see below:

  • 60 to 69 MPH – 65 fatal accidents
  • 40 to 49 MPH – 50 fatal accidents
  • 50 to 59 MPH – 48 fatal accidents

Type of Accident – Any type of traffic accident can cause injury or wrongful death, even low-speed accidents in closed settings like parking lots. In fact, you don’t even need to be driving: according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, “During 2005 to 2007, on average, 506 deaths occurred annually in non-crash incidents,” including accidental falls from vehicles, heat stroke, and hypothermia. That being said, certain types of accidents tend to be more lethal than others. Most fatal crashes in Utah last year were single-vehicle accidents (155 out of 258), but in a multi-vehicle accident, death is most likely to occur in the event of a:

  • Side-impact (“T-bone”) accident – 39 fatal crashes
  • Head-on collision – 25 fatal crashes
  • Rear-end collision – 23 fatal crashes

Vehicle Make – As countless safety ratings show, the car you drive affects your likelihood of dying in an accident. Though this may be a byproduct of brand popularity rather than vehicle design, the top 10 automotive brands with the most fatal accidents were:

  • Ford – 67 deadly accidents
  • Chevrolet – 40 deadly accidents
  • Dodge – 33 deadly accidents
  • Honda – 30 deadly accidents
  • Toyota – 29 deadly accidents
  • Nissan – 27 deadly accidents
  • GMC – 19 deadly accidents
  • Jeep – 15 deadly accidents
  • Freightliner – 12 deadly truck accidents
  • Peterbilt – 11 deadly truck accidents

Vehicle Type – You probably noticed that the last two companies on the list above make 18-wheelers and other large commercial trucks. This brings up a good question: what type of vehicle is most likely to be involved in a deadly crash? According to DPS statistics, passenger cars were more frequently involved in fatal crashes than any other type of vehicle, accounting for 152 out of the 258 fatal accidents that occurred in 2015. You might assume this is proportionate to what people drive, but actually, statistics from the U.S. Department of Transportation show nearly identical numbers of automobiles and trucks registered in Utah as of 2010 (about 1.3 million each). Passenger cars were followed by:

  • Pickup Trucks – 98 deadly crashes
  • SUVs – 73 deadly crashes
  • Heavy Trucks – 38 deadly crashes
  • Motorcycles – 36 deadly crashes
  • Vans – 23 deadly crashes

Weather Conditions – As every driver knows from experience, certain types of weather can make the roads treacherous – but they’re not necessarily the weather conditions you’d expect. Snow, slush, and ice are obvious risk factors, yet most fatal accidents actually occurred when roads were dry. A total of 213 fatal accidents occurred on dry road surfaces, compared to 23 on wet roads, six on icy roads, and four on snowy and/or slushy roads. Of course, the amount of snow you have to contend with depends on which part of Utah you live in. Near the state’s northern border, Logan got more than 63 inches of snow last year, with snowfall reported on more than 36 days. On the arid southern border, St. George got less than two inches, with just one day of snow.

Contact a Salt Lake City Car Accident Attorney About Your Personal Injury Claim

A car accident can burden you with huge medical bills, especially if surgery is required to treat a serious injury such as a spinal cord injury or traumatic brain injury. However, financial compensation may be available for your care costs and other expenses, including anticipated costs that are expected to arise in the future.

Darwin Overson is an experienced Utah personal injury lawyer who represents car accident survivors and the surviving loved ones of wrongful death victims. He handles auto accident claims throughout Utah, including but not limited to Salt Lake County, Wasatch County, Weber County, Summit County, Rich County, Morgan County, Cache County, Tooele County, and Box Elder County. To discuss your personal injury claim with Darwin Overson in a free and confidential legal consultation, call the law offices of Overson Law at (801) 895-3143.


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