Auto Safety Statistics
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), a total of 37,261 fatalities due to motor vehicle crashes occurred in 2008. Car accidents remain the leading cause of death for individuals between the ages of 2 and 34, with more than six million car accidents reported to occur each year in the United States. Many injuries sustained in motor vehicle accidents can lead to permanent disability, whether the accidents are the fault of driver error, mechanical failure, defective parts, or unsafe road conditions.
Each year, the U.S. National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHSTA) tests new or redesigned cars, trucks, vans, and sports utility vehicles according to a five-star safety rating. These tests hold vehicles to a high safety standard and measure each vehicle’s crashworthiness, or ability to withstand collisions and protect passengers during front- and side-impact crashes and rollovers.
Certain safety precautions can help greatly reduce the risk of motor vehicle accidents, such as the use of current safety features such as seatbelts and the inclusion of new technology for airbags, stability control, and other safety systems. The NHTSA often recommends new safety features such as electronic stability control (ESC) and side airbag technology to greater reduce the chance of serious injury in a crash.
Tips for Auto Safety
- Have an emergency kit with first-aid supplies, jumper cables, and safety lights
- Always wear a seat belt to reduce the risk of injury in a crash, especially when airbags are deployed
- Limit driver distractions, including cell phones, music, or navigation systems
- Map out routes ahead of time to avoid confusion
- Perform regular vehicle maintenance and schedule service appointments to check hoses, belts, filters, spark plugs, fluid levels, and tires
- Check auto recall news and safety alerts frequently
Auto safety recalls are frequently issued by vehicle manufacturers and the NHTSA to address reported safety concerns with certain vehicle makes and models. Recalls can range in magnitude and scope from affecting only a few hundred units with a small defective part, to affecting millions of a certain model year that may have a serious mechanical defect, such as the millions of vehicles that were recalled in the massive Toyota floor mat recall or due to the Toyota sudden unintended acceleration issue. Vehicle manufacturers are required by the NHTSA to notify the public with a description of the recall, including a schedule of repairs and a notice of the remedy used to fix the problem.
Vehicles are sometimes found to have major mechanical failures or a lack of crashworthiness, the measure of a vehicle’s ability to withstand a crash and protect passengers. Problems with roof crush, seat back collapses, seat belt failure, tire tread separation, defective airbags, unsafe child safety seats, or high rollover potential are all issues that may be addressed in a vehicle recall.
For less serious problems, a technical service bulletin (TSB) may be issued by a manufacturer to fix a problem that is not deemed serious enough to warrant an entire recall.
Noteworthy vehicle recalls include:
- 2009-2010 Toyota recall of more than 9 million vehicles for floor mat entrapment, sticky accelerator pedals, and sudden unintended acceleration issues (associated with at least 52 deaths)
- 2001 Ford Explorer recall of 13 million vehicles with Firestone tires (associated with at least 200 deaths from rollover after tire tread separation)
- 1996 Ford Explorer recall of 7.9 million vehicles for a faulty ignition module
- 1987 Audi 5000 recall for improperly positioned floor mats that could unintentionally trap the accelerator pedal and cause acceleration
- Insurance Institute for Highway Safety: http://www.saferoads.org/advocates-safety-issues
- U.S. Department of Transportation, Safercar.gov: http://www.safercar.gov
- National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov
- Fatality Analysis Reporting System: http://www-fars.nhtsa.dot.gov/Main/index.aspx