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How Does Timing Impact the Frequency and Severity of Car Accidents in Maryland?

Posted on: July 31, 2018

One person was killed and several others injured, some with life-threatening wounds, after a multi-vehicle crash near the intersection of Columbia Pike and Fairland Road in Fairland, Maryland. The chain reaction incident started when two SUVs collided in a minor accident just before 3 a.m. on May 6, 2018, according to a report from WUSA News Channel 9. One driver exited her vehicle and stood outside with one of her passengers, presumably to check for damage and converse with the other driver. At that point, another driver approached the crash site in a BMW, striking the woman, her passenger, and her SUV. Montgomery County Police stated that she died at the scene, while five others were rushed to local hospitals with varying degrees of injuries. The driver of the BMW was placed under arrest for suspicion of drunk driving, but officials continue to investigate other factors that may have contributed to the accident.

Accidents can happen to anyone, anytime; in fact, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that getting into a car is the most dangerous thing a person does on a daily basis. Because it is not possible to eliminate them entirely, the best way you can avoid becoming a victim is to know the risk factors and guard against them. You can also reduce the chances of being in serious car accident by learning more about how time of day, week, and year affect the likelihood of motor vehicle collisions. Data compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is illustrative.

Frequency of Rush Hour Car Accidents

Because the number of drivers on the road increases during the evening rush hour, it is not surprising that the frequency of auto collisions is the highest from 3 – 9 p.m. during the work week. Within that time frame, the highest percentage of accidents occur between 6 – 9 p.m. Commuters around the Baltimore/Washington metropolitan area are in a hurry to get home for dinner and to spend time with their families. Their haste and the sheer volume of vehicles contribute to more accidents as compared to other times of day.

It should also come as no shock that, while the frequency of fatal motor vehicle crashes is higher, the number that involve alcohol is actually quite low. Of all fatal crashes that occurred in the US in 2010, 33% of them involved an operator who had a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 or higher.

Fatalities Tend to Occur at Night

The same NHTSA report demonstrates that the dangers of driving at night are compounded by many different factors. The higher rate of fatalities in night-time accidents is due to an increased likelihood of motorists driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, more drivers traveling at excessive speeds, and fewer vehicle occupants wearing seatbelts. The statistics on annual averages are telling:

  • Around 53% of all fatal accidents between 9 p.m. and midnight are alcohol-related;
  • During the time from midnight to 6 a.m., alcohol is a factor in approximately 70% of all fatal motor vehicle accidents;
  • The fatality rate per vehicle mile of travel increases three-fold at night as compared to day time travel;
  • Speeding by one or more operators is to blame in 30% of crashes that occur at night; and,
  • Two-thirds of victims killed in night-time accidents were not wearing a seat belt at the time of the crash.

In addition, the level of the driver’s BAC tends to correlate with higher traffic incidents at night. Fatal accidents are more likely to happen when drivers have a BAC of .08 or higher, at 54%. Motorists who had a BAC between .01 and .07 were implicated in only 6% of crashes, while 40% of night time crashes involved sober drivers.

Use Extra Caution on Saturdays

Nationwide, fatal accidents occur more frequently on Saturdays. According to the NHTSA data, this day of the week sees the highest total of fatalities at an average of 158. In comparing this number to the percentage of cars traveling on US roadways, that amounts to an average rate of 1.2 deaths per 100 million motorists. Another troubling statistic shows that 31% of all fatal drunk-driving accidents occur on the weekend, especially during the hours between midnight and 3 a.m.

Note that walking does not do much to improve your safety on weekends: Nearly half of all pedestrian deaths occur on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Alcohol was to blame in the majority of these incidents, either intoxication on behalf of the driver of the pedestrian. In around 30% of all accidents in which a pedestrian was killed, the victim was the one that was drunk.

August is the Most Dangerous Month 

You might assume that the snow, ice, and wintry conditions around Baltimore would mean more accidents during the colder months. However, this is not the case, as August is the month that claims the most lives in traffic-related incidents, at an average of more than 3,600 fatalities. Of the 31 days in August, 25 of them rank in the deadliest days throughout the year. September ranks second and July is third, perhaps a result of the Labor Day and 4th of July holidays. March is the safest month to drive, according to the NHTSA.

The NHTSA also reports that, when counted as deaths per 100 million vehicles on US roadways, the fatality rate for August is 1.42, which is .10 points higher than the comparative months of September and June.