The Alabama Department of Transportation (DOT) compiles data each year on road collisions and crashes in the State of Alabama. This information is compiled mostly from Alabama Uniform Crash Reports that are prepared by law enforcement officers investigating vehicle crashes. While the compiled and analyzed data typically runs a full year behind, it’s still informative and helpful. The most recent release of data is for the calendar year 2012. The data published by the Alabama DOT is both revealing and instructive.
In total during 2012 in Alabama, there were 128,307 crashes, a 0.49 percent increase from the prior year. There were 813 fatal crashes involving 870 fatalities, a decrease of 0.12 percent and 3.23 percent from the prior year. Reported injuries, which totaled 40,202, increased by 5.75 percent from 2011 numbers. Interestingly, the number of registered vehicles, the number of licensed drivers, and the number of miles travelled in Alabama stayed essentially unchanged.
The big changes that have been seen are reflected in 10-year crash data analysis for the period of 2003 to 2012. The total number of crashes decreased in that period by more than 9 percent. The number of reported injuries has decreased by more than 8 percent, and the number of reported fatalities has decreased by more than 13 percent during that 10-year period. The decreases of injures and deaths over the prior 10 years is significant considering that:
In other words, even though there were more drivers in more cars who were travelling more miles, there was no increase in the number of crashes, injuries or fatalities. In fact, just the opposite occurred. The questions most of us would ask are why this is so and how can Alabama continue this trend of fewer accidents, injuries and fatalities?
Analyzing crash data by month, day of the week and time of the day is also revealing. The percentage of total collisions does not significantly vary from month to month. The fewest number of crashes occur in November (6.6 percent) and the most occur in June (10.8 percent). March, November and December join June as being the four months that represent more than 9 percent of the total crashes in a given month. Not surprisingly, most crashes occur on Saturday (21 percent), followed by Sunday (15.2 percent) and Friday (14.5 percent). The fewest number of crashes occur on Monday (11.6 percent), followed closely by Wednesday (11.7 percent).
Not surprisingly, speed and alcohol/drugs were significant contributing factors in a large number of crashes and fatal crashes. Other significant factors were:
The State DOT’s analysis looked at factors such as crash environment, whether a traffic control device was used, road curvature and grade, road condition, light condition, number of lanes, and weather. It’s noteworthy that almost 68 percent of collisions and a corresponding number of fatalities occurred when the weather was clear. The analysis also broke down the number of collisions and fatalities based upon the road type, such as interstates, U.S. highways, state highways, county and city roads, and other roadways. Interestingly, dating back to 2003, a significantly greater number of fatalities have occurred in rural settings as compared to urban areas of the state.
Passenger cars, for example, account for 53.4 percent of all vehicles that are involved in crashes; SUVs and pickups account for 36.9 percent; and motorcycles account for less than 1 percent of all crashes. The study also broke down the data by pedestrian injuries/fatalities, bicycle injury/fatalities, railroad/highway crashes by injuries and fatalities, and work zone crashes by injuries and fatalities. There was only one death from a railroad/highway collision in 2012 in Alabama. Work zones continue to be an area of high collisions with corresponding injuries and deaths that are disproportionate to other crash areas.
Motorcycle crash fatalities have fluctuated in the past 10-year period. In 2003, there were 52 people killed in a crash involving a motorcycle. In 2012, there were 92 people killed in motorcycle collisions (or about 11 percent of all fatal collisions). The number of motorcycle collision fatalities peaked in 2006 with 105 people killed. The peak number of motorcycles involved in crashes occurred in 2008 (2,106) and has fluctuated as well in the 10-year period, with 1,912 recorded in 2012. When one considers that the total number of motorcycles involved in crashes in 2012 was less than 1 percent of all vehicles but the total number of fatalities represented 11 percent of all motor vehicle crash fatalities, it is not surprising that a disproportionate number of deaths occurred involving persons on motorcycles.
Heavy trucks also continue to play a large role in vehicle crashes, injuries and deaths in Alabama. Fortunately, that number seems be on a downward trend in the 10-year period between 2003 and 2012. For example, in 2003, there were 9,995 crashes involving large trucks, with 2,565 injuries and 161 fatalities reported in these collisions. In 2012, there were 5,798 crashes involving large trucks, with 1,562 injuries and 90 fatalities reported in these collisions.
The analysis provided by the Alabama DOT is invaluable to Alabama motorists and the general public. The analysis goes into much more depth than space in this issue will allow it to be addressed here. The DOT evaluation helps us to identify where the greatest issues are in Alabama. This helps track areas that have been a concern throughout the years. Those areas include the use of safety restraints, work zones, and the like. This analysis helps our highway department, law enforcement officers, emergency responders, safety experts, and motorists take measures that will assist in reducing the number of motor vehicle collisions and the resulting injuries and deaths in Alabama.
If you need more information on this subject, or you would like a copy of the report, contact Ben Locklar at 800-898-2034 or by email at Ben.Locklar@beasleyallen.com. Ben is a lawyer in our firm’s Personal Injury/Product Liability Section.
Source: Alabama Traffic 2012: Crash Facts, Alabama Department of Transportation
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