Study: Most dangerous kind of car crash isn’t the most feared

WASHINGTON — A study from AAA of data on fatal crashes finds that drivers worry most about being killed by another motorist, but the most lethal accidents are solo crashes.

AAA Mid-Atlantic said in a statement Tuesday that while 96 percent of drivers fear they’re going to be hit by someone running a red light, and 86 percent fear being hit by a distracted driver, in fact more than half of traffic deaths in the area and nationwide happened in crashes that involved a single vehicle — their own.

AAA’s numbers cover 2015, the last year for which they’re available. AAA found that 62.9 percent of traffic deaths in Virginia, or 474 out of 753, happened in single-vehicle crashes. In Maryland, the number was 275 out of 513, or 53.6 percent. In the District, the numbers were much lower, but the percentage was the highest in the nation — 17 out of 23 deaths, or 73.9 percent.

Nationwide, single-vehicle crashes resulted in 55 percent of traffic fatalities.

“The expression ‘single-vehicle crash’ covers a multitude of driver errors and other risk factors, including intoxication, inattention, distraction, drowsiness, speed, adverse weather, plus overcorrection of the vehicle and, ironically, even crash-avoiding maneuvers,” said AAA’s John B. Townsend in the statement.

“Single-vehicle crashes can also have many manifestations, including the vehicle departing the roadway, or rolling over or turning over as the result of the initial incident,” he added. “In fact, such crashes are dangerous incidents, and they have a higher fatality rate than other types of crashes.”

Single-vehicle crashes include crashes where the vehicle hits a pedestrian or cyclist, as well as trees, poles, other objects, or animals. But 70 percent of the fatal single-vehicle crashes are also classified as “run off-road” accidents — crashes in which the vehicle crosses either a center or edge line. And while the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration said that only 3 percent of all crashes involved rollovers, they caused 20 percent of the deaths.

The lesson for all drivers, according to AAA? “Keep your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel.”

Rick Massimo

Rick Massimo came to WTOP, and to Washington, in 2012 after having lived in Providence, R.I., since he was a child. He went to George Washington University as an undergraduate and is regularly surprised at the changes to the city since that faraway time.

This article was written by WTOP’s news partner and republished with permission. Sign up for’s free email subscription today.


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