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Factors That Can Influence Car Accident Rates

pRearEndCarCrash2.jpgAuto accidents happen for many different reasons. Reckless driving, road conditions, weather conditions, drinking while driving, being drowsy or distracted, etc. are some of the most common and well-known. However, there are many other factors that influence a state's automobile accident rate. These factors are used by the insurance industry to predict the probability that drivers will be involved in an accident. These predictions affect insurance rates, and can influence legislators and regulators as they seek ways to reduce accident rates.

Factors influencing automobile accident rates and insurance premiums include:

Age -Teens are considered the highest risk group. Teenagers are four times more likely to be involved in a car accident. On average, 5,000 teens die, and 400,000 are injured in automobile accidents every year. Teenagers are at higher risk because of their driving habits and lack of experience. At the other end of the age spectrum, seniors are second most likely to be involved in a fatal car crash. For seniors, diminished vision and reduced reaction time are the leading causes of accidents.

Rural vs. City Roads -Rural roads are more dangerous than city roads. Rural accidents account for 30% more fatalities than those occurring in urban areas. There are many reasons for this. First, the response time of emergency personnel in rural areas is often less because of the distance. The greater the distance, the greater the time from accident discovery and reporting to treatment. Second, speed comes into play. Speed limits on rural roads are often higher than throughout urban areas. Higher speeds mean a greater likelihood of having a serious accident.

Additionally, there are more traffic control devices located on city roads. In single-vehicle crashes, 86% occur in areas where there are no traffic signals present. Rural roads are also less likely to be paved or as well-maintained as city roads. These factors make it more difficult for a driver to maintain control of a vehicle, thus increasing the possibility of an accident.

Commuting Distance -The longer the commute, the more an individual is driving. The longer an individual is on the road, the greater the likelihood they will be involved in a crash. Further, the longer a driver has to travel, the more likely they are to suffer driver fatigue or become distracted. Insurance companies place the greatest risk on drivers who commute between 3 and 20 miles to work each day.

Population Density - In 2012, the CDC conducted a study that determined a metropolitan area's population density has an impact on automobile accident rates. After studying the 50 most populous metropolitan regions in the country, they determined that metropolitan areas in the Southern United States, including Memphis, were more dangerous than other cities. Memphis and its suburbs had an accident fatality rate of 17.8 per 100,000 drivers, and 22 per 100,000 teen drivers. Nashville and the surrounding suburbs were at 13, and 22 respectively. By comparison, New York City came in at 5.1 and 7.3. Los Angeles was at 6.6 and 9.5. The study seemed to show that the greater the population density, the less likely drivers were to be involved in a fatal accident. The presumed reason? Because greater density means increased traffic and reduced driving speeds.

Education -In 2015, the American Journal of Epidemiology published a study that showed a link between an individual's level of education and their likelihood of being involved in a fatal automobile accident. The study showed that drivers age 25 or older with only a high school degree were at greater risk. The reason for this isn't intelligence or driving habits, rather, it is because drivers with less education tend to driver older vehicles that aren't equipped with adequate safety features.

Time of Day/Lighting - 31% of single-vehicle accidents, and 56% of multi-vehicle accidents occur during daylight hours. That drops to 15% and 10% respectively after dark. The safest time of the day is dusk when 1% of single-vehicle crashes, and less than 2% of multi-vehicle crashes occur.

Alcohol & Lighting - The most likely time for an accident involving a drunk driver is after dark. 19% of single-vehicle accidents after dark involve a drunk driver traveling through an area without street lights. For two-vehicle and multi-vehicle accidents, it's 7.5% and 6% respectively.

Each of these are considered potential risks by auto insurers and auto accident attorneys. This data is used by insurers to determine the likelihood a driver may be involved in an accident. The information is also used by city planners, legislators, regulators, and law enforcement to deploy resources and programs that can reduce accident rates. Naturally, some of these contributing factors are easier to address than others. For drivers, the best way to address them is to adjust driving habits and to remain cognizant of where they're driving, when they're driving, and who is driving on the road with them.

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