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Fatality Facts 2021Collisions with fixed objects and animals

Overview

About 20% of motor vehicle crash deaths result from a vehicle leaving the roadway and hitting a fixed object alongside the road. Trees, utility poles, and traffic barriers are the most common objects struck. Almost half of the deaths in fixed-object crashes occur at night. Alcohol is a frequent contributing factor. Motorists also run off the road because of excessive speeds, falling asleep, inattention or poor visibility.  From 1975 to the mid-2000s there was a general upward trend in deaths from collisions with animals, but this trend has leveled off over the past decade. In 2021, these deaths occurred most often during October-December. The following facts are based on analysis of data from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (FARS). The information on fixed-object crashes is based on fatal crashes in which the most harmful event coded was a collision with a fixed object, regardless of whether the first harmful event also was a collision with a fixed object or was instead another type of crash, such as a collision between two motor vehicles, that in turn led to a collision with a fixed object. Information on the most harmful event became available in FARS in 1979.

The information on collisions with animals is based on fatal crashes in which the first harmful event coded was a collision with an animal. Many of these collisions involve secondary impacts that are more severe, such as colliding with another vehicle or a tree. Information on the first harmful event has been available since FARS was established in 1975. FARS does not track the type of animal involved in the collision. However, according to a review of 147 fatal animal crashes during 2000-02 in nine states, 77% of the struck animals were deer, and a variety of other animals were involved including cattle, horses, dogs, bears, cats and opossums. Williams, A. F. & Wells, J. K. (2005). Characteristics of vehicle-animal crashes in which vehicle occupants are killed. Traffic Injury Prevention, 6, 56–59.

Posted May 2023.

Alcohol

Forty-one percent of drivers killed in fixed-object crashes in 2021 had blood alcohol concentrations (BACs) at or above 0.08%. By comparison, 25% of drivers killed in other types of fatal crashes had BACs this high. The percentage of drivers killed in fixed-object crashes with BACs at or above 0.08% declined from 66% in 1982 to 41% in 2021, a reduction of 37%.
Percent of fatally injured drivers with BACs ≥ 0.08% by crash type, 1982-2021
Estimated number and percent of fatally injured drivers with BACs ≥ 0.08% by crash type, 1982-2021
Year Fixed object crashes Other crashes All crashes
Driver deaths Estimated deaths with BACs ≥ 0.08 Driver deaths Estimated deaths with BACs ≥ 0.08 Driver deaths Estimated deaths with BACs ≥ 0.08
Number Number % Number Number % Number Number %
1982 6,089 3,991 66 18,601 8,148 44 24,690 12,139 49
1983 6,074 3,925 65 18,064 7,618 42 24,138 11,543 48
1984 6,496 4,027 62 19,093 7,472 39 25,589 11,499 45
1985 6,927 4,078 59 18,410 6,608 36 25,337 10,685 42
1986 7,121 4,209 59 19,509 7,201 37 26,630 11,409 43
1987 6,974 3,965 57 19,859 7,093 36 26,833 11,058 41
1988 7,239 3,987 55 20,014 7,116 36 27,253 11,103 41
1989 6,962 3,926 56 19,427 6,711 35 26,389 10,637 40
1990 6,786 3,897 57 18,964 6,498 34 25,750 10,395 40
1991 6,398 3,538 55 17,532 5,947 34 23,930 9,485 40
1992 5,979 3,151 53 16,605 5,301 32 22,584 8,452 37
1993 5,957 3,079 52 17,185 5,243 31 23,142 8,322 36
1994 5,943 2,885 49 17,748 5,028 28 23,691 7,913 33
1995 6,197 3,018 49 18,193 5,289 29 24,390 8,307 34
1996 6,077 2,917 48 18,457 5,258 28 24,534 8,175 33
1997 6,081 2,881 47 18,586 4,962 27 24,667 7,843 32
1998 6,280 2,964 47 18,463 4,870 26 24,743 7,834 32
1999 6,249 2,908 47 19,008 5,010 26 25,257 7,918 31
2000 6,595 3,080 47 18,972 5,086 27 25,567 8,166 32
2001 6,685 3,050 46 19,184 5,203 27 25,869 8,252 32
2002 7,218 3,292 46 19,441 5,224 27 26,659 8,515 32
2003 7,083 3,163 45 19,696 5,191 26 26,779 8,354 31
2004 6,987 3,083 44 19,884 5,072 26 26,871 8,155 30
2005 7,033 3,096 44 20,458 5,393 26 27,491 8,489 31
2006 7,273 3,190 44 20,075 5,388 27 27,348 8,578 31
2007 7,202 3,293 46 19,368 5,324 27 26,570 8,617 32
2008 6,955 3,128 45 17,299 4,833 28 24,254 7,961 33
2009 6,242 2,773 44 15,593 4,440 28 21,835 7,213 33
2010 5,925 2,599 44 15,147 3,980 26 21,072 6,579 31
2011 5,897 2,566 44 14,918 3,959 27 20,815 6,524 31
2012 6,163 2,634 43 15,327 4,100 27 21,490 6,735 31
2013 6,052 2,655 44 14,892 3,893 26 20,944 6,548 31
2014 6,044 2,603 43 14,744 3,783 26 20,788 6,387 31
2015 6,162 2,501 41 16,186 3,875 24 22,348 6,376 29
2016 6,506 2,576 40 17,209 4,105 24 23,715 6,681 28
2017 6,424 2,617 41 17,333 4,047 23 23,757 6,664 28
2018 6,129 2,347 38 16,916 4,002 24 23,045 6,349 28
2019 5,985 2,468 41 16,762 3,928 23 22,747 6,396 28
2020 7,045 2,794 40 17,815 4,422 25 24,860 7,216 29
2021 7,341 3,018 41 20,081 5,072 25 27,422 8,089 29

Age and sex

Twenty-five percent of drivers killed in fixed-object crashes in 2021 were males younger than 30. Overall, males accounted for 82% of drivers killed in these crashes.
Driver deaths in fixed-object crashes by age and sex, 2021
Age Male Female *Total
Number % Number % Number %
<16 31 <1 7 <1 38 1
16-19 379 5 104 1 486 7
20-24 698 10 155 2 854 12
25-29 698 10 156 2 854 12
30-34 667 9 152 2 823 11
35-39 543 7 120 2 663 9
40-44 456 6 102 1 558 8
45-49 437 6 84 1 521 7
50-54 471 6 94 1 565 8
55-59 386 5 78 1 464 6
60-64 389 5 82 1 472 6
65-69 300 4 47 1 348 5
≥70 536 7 152 2 689 9
Total* 5,995 82 1,333 18 7,341 100

Crash types

Ninety-five percent of fixed-object crash deaths in 2021 occurred in single-vehicle crashes.
Deaths in fixed-object crashes by crash type, 2021
Crash type Deaths %
Single-vehicle crashes 8,408 95
Multiple-vehicle crashes 476 5
All crashes 8,884 100
Seventeen percent of deaths in fixed-object crashes in 2021 involved vehicles rolling over.
Deaths in fixed-object crashes by rollover occurrence and object struck, 2021
Object struck Rollover No rollover All crashes
Number % Number % Number %
Embankment 152 36 271 64 423 100
Culvert 66 32 143 68 209 100
Bridge rail 17 22 60 78 77 100
Ditch 70 19 282 80 352 100
Boulder 12 20 46 79 58 100
Utility pole 193 19 811 81 1,004 100
Guardrail 79 17 384 83 463 100
Tree 662 17 3,302 83 3,964 100
Concrete traffic barrier 49 15 283 85 332 100
Fence 29 13 191 87 220 100
Wall 23 13 149 87 172 100
Other post/pole 20 11 159 89 179 100
Building 15 9 170 92 185 100
Bridge pier 22 10 186 89 208 100
Curb 26 9 268 91 294 100
Other 103 14 641 86 744 100
Total 1,538 17 7,346 83 8,884 100
Nineteen percent of passenger vehicle occupant deaths in fixed-object crashes in 2021 involved ejection; 14% of the occupants killed were fully ejected, and 6% were partially ejected.
Passenger vehicle occupant deaths in fixed-object crashes by occupant ejection status, 2021
Ejection status Deaths %
Not ejected 5,583 79
Fully ejected 975 14
Partially ejected 393 6
Total* 7,027 100

When and where crashes occur

Eighteen percent of deaths in fixed-object crashes in 2021 occurred on interstates and freeways, 38% occurred on other major roads, and 42% occurred on minor roads.
Deaths in fixed-object crashes by road type, 2021
Road type Deaths %
Interstates and freeways 1,635 18
Other major roads 3,400 38
Minor roads 3,770 42
All road types* 8,884 100
Fifty-six percent of deaths in fixed-object crashes in 2021 occurred on urban roads.
Deaths in fixed-object crashes by land use, 2021
Land use Deaths %
Urban 5,006 56
Rural 3,810 43
Total* 8,884 100
Forty-four percent of deaths in fixed-object crashes in 2021 occurred on roads with speed limits of 55 mph or higher.
Deaths in fixed-object crashes by speed limit, 2021
Speed limit Deaths %
≤35 mph 2,288 26
40-50 mph 2,414 27
55+ mph 3,884 44
Total* 8,884 100
Forty-three percent of deaths in fixed-object crashes in 2021 occurred at night (9 p.m.-6 a.m.), with the highest proportion occurring between midnight and 3 a.m. (17%).
Deaths in fixed-object crashes by time of day, 2021
Hour of day Deaths %
Midnight - 3 a.m. 1,553 17
3 a.m. - 6 a.m. 857 10
6 a.m. - 9 a.m. 697 8
9 a.m. - noon 733 8
Noon - 3 p.m. 977 11
3 p.m. - 6 p.m. 1,192 13
6 p.m. - 9 p.m. 1,329 15
9 p.m. - midnight 1,423 16
Total* 8,884 100

Collisions with animals

From 1975 to the mid-2000s there was a general upward trend in deaths from collisions with animals, but this trend has since leveled off. These deaths increased from 89 in 1975 to 223 in 2007 and then declined to 164 in 2021. In 2021, the highest number of deaths in collisions with animals occurred during October-December.
Motor vehicle crash deaths involving collisions with animals, 1975-2021
Motor vehicle crash deaths in collisions with animals by quarter of the year, 1975-2021
Year Months Total
Jan-Mar Apr-Jun Jul-Sep Oct-Dec
1975 14 15 28 32 89
1976 15 25 34 25 99
1977 13 15 27 24 79
1978 7 19 34 20 80
1979 16 21 30 35 102
1980 14 22 33 25 94
1981 14 19 43 29 105
1982 10 18 27 27 82
1983 11 28 32 24 95
1984 11 25 33 23 92
1985 12 24 44 24 104
1986 21 29 26 35 111
1987 15 30 35 31 111
1988 14 23 44 37 118
1989 20 33 42 36 131
1990 14 17 39 36 106
1991 23 34 31 34 122
1992 20 27 34 39 120
1993 16 22 27 36 101
1994 20 41 27 43 131
1995 17 29 36 41 123
1996 14 59 38 42 153
1997 17 35 39 45 136
1998 17 36 59 53 165
1999 18 35 46 53 152
2000 29 30 45 46 150
2001 24 51 43 59 177
2002 21 42 57 50 170
2003 23 57 72 60 212
2004 26 55 62 61 204
2005 18 47 57 58 180
2006 26 67 63 66 222
2007 15 64 82 62 223
2008 25 58 70 57 210
2009 24 52 67 41 184
2010 20 62 87 44 213
2011 19 44 71 65 199
2012 20 50 62 44 176
2013 15 54 74 49 192
2014 18 50 60 38 166
2015 15 47 59 68 189
2016 20 55 58 56 189
2017 20 64 65 63 212
2018 20 60 67 43 190
2019 14 64 67 41 186
2020 21 46 78 57 202
2021 12 45 42 65 164
Over the past 10 years, Texas had the highest numbers of deaths from collisions with animals. The numbers reflect the size of the driving population, the size of the animal population and the percentage of rural roads.
Motor vehicle crash deaths in collisions with animals by state, 2012-2021
State Year Total
2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021
Alabama 5 1 9 2 3 1 3 3 3 2 32
Alaska 4 3 0 3 0 2 3 1 0 1 17
Arizona 4 2 0 3 1 4 2 4 2 3 25
Arkansas 3 3 4 4 7 1 2 2 2 2 30
California 4 4 4 2 5 9 4 3 4 4 43
Colorado 2 7 6 7 4 5 2 2 5 2 42
Connecticut 0 2 0 0 1 2 0 0 1 1 7
Delaware 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 2
Florida 5 6 1 4 4 5 6 6 9 7 53
Georgia 3 2 5 5 4 3 7 9 9 5 52
Hawaii 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1
Idaho 3 3 1 2 1 2 0 0 0 1 13
Illinois 4 5 4 8 7 4 8 4 10 2 56
Indiana 9 3 2 5 5 7 7 7 5 2 52
Iowa 2 4 3 0 2 2 5 1 4 6 29
Kansas 4 7 2 4 7 7 3 5 5 4 48
Kentucky 0 3 4 4 4 3 6 6 8 6 44
Louisiana 1 3 2 0 1 2 1 4 2 1 17
Maine 2 0 3 4 2 1 1 0 4 0 17
Maryland 4 4 0 1 1 1 2 0 1 0 14
Massachusetts 1 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 3
Michigan 6 9 8 7 15 17 14 12 2 9 99
Minnesota 8 8 3 8 3 6 9 5 4 3 57
Mississippi 1 1 3 5 3 4 2 3 2 1 25
Missouri 5 2 3 4 6 7 6 9 6 4 52
Montana 3 10 1 4 6 3 3 7 12 7 56
Nebraska 3 2 1 4 1 3 2 1 3 0 20
Nevada 2 2 1 1 1 1 1 0 1 2 12
New Hampshire 1 0 0 4 0 1 1 0 2 0 9
New Jersey 1 3 3 2 1 3 2 4 0 6 25
New Mexico 1 4 2 2 6 5 1 3 2 3 29
New York 3 4 4 9 4 5 6 10 4 4 53
North Carolina 5 4 2 8 5 1 3 3 2 5 38
North Dakota 1 1 4 1 1 1 2 2 2 0 15
Ohio 8 8 4 4 6 10 3 4 3 10 60
Oklahoma 2 3 6 8 4 3 6 6 3 5 46
Oregon 4 1 2 2 0 0 7 3 3 5 27
Pennsylvania 7 15 10 8 13 15 11 8 15 12 114
Rhode Island 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 1
South Carolina 5 5 8 7 4 3 6 10 2 4 54
South Dakota 2 2 1 0 3 3 3 0 4 0 18
Tennessee 7 8 4 2 2 4 6 4 2 1 40
Texas 15 18 25 22 19 27 16 16 21 18 197
Utah 1 1 1 1 1 3 2 2 1 0 13
Vermont 0 0 0 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 3
Virginia 4 4 3 1 3 5 5 1 6 3 35
Washington 2 3 2 1 3 4 1 0 7 0 23
West Virginia 1 2 2 3 3 2 2 0 2 1 18
Wisconsin 16 7 13 7 13 13 7 14 15 12 117
Wyoming 2 1 0 3 2 1 1 1 2 0 13
U.S. Total 176 192 166 189 189 212 190 186 202 164 1866
Among animal-involved crash deaths in 2021, 63% occurred in crashes in which the most harmful event was a collision with an animal. Rollover and collisions with fixed objects were the next most common most harmful events, accounting for 16% and 9% of deaths, respectively.
Percent distribution of animal-involved crash deaths by the most harmful event, 2021
Motor vehicle crash deaths in collisions with animals by the most harmful event, 2021
Most harmful event Deaths %
Collision with an animal 104 63
Rollover 26 16
Collision with a fixed object 14 9
Collision with a vehicle in transport 9 5
Fire 1 1
Other 10 6
Total 164 100
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