Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883


Crunching the numbers

As far as I know, all states have statutes requiring collision reports for vehicular incidents involving fatalities, injuries, or property damage of a certain threshold amount.  Additionally, it’s required that these reports are compiled in annual summaries.

Evidently, that compilation is tedious, as the 2012 summations for Washington and Idaho have only recently been released.  I’ve read them in their entirety, and found many items of interest.  If nothing else, the data reminds drivers of the ever-looming risk on the roadways, and might help guide driver behavior for those who see it.

For Washington, the report is named, “2012 Annual Collision Summary.”  Idaho calls theirs, “Idaho Traffic Crashes 2012.”  What follows are excerpts from the reports that stood out to me.

To begin with, in 2012, there were a total of 99,560 collisions reported in Washington and 21,402 in Idaho, resulting in 438 and 184 fatalities, respectively.  Of course, there is a large population variance between the states, but the “equalizer” is when fatalities are broken down into a “rate per 100 million vehicle miles travelled.”  Washington’s rate for 2012 is .77 deaths per 100 million miles, while Idaho’s rate is 1.16.  The 1.16 rate also happens to be the United States’ average.

One can see that only a small percent of reported collisions result in fatalities, but any number is too high, many of the incidents cause serious injuries, and all of them result in major property damage.  Besides cars and trucks, the reports also include bicycles, motorcycles and pedestrians.

Washington’s report included a collision “clock,” which recapped some of the figures in a real-world, real-time manner.   The run down showed that in Washington, a crash occurred every 5 minutes, a person was killed in a crash every 20 hours, a person was injured in a crash every 12 minutes, a pedestrian or bicyclist was involved in a crash every 3 hours, a pedestrian or bicyclist was killed in a crash every 4 days, a speeding driver had a crash every 25 minutes, an impaired driver had a crash every 2 hours, and an impaired driver caused a fatality every 2 days.  In Idaho, 40 percent of fatalities involved an impaired driver.  These statistics provide compelling evidence for drivers to stay focused and sober!

Law enforcement is actively working to combat rising collisions.  In Washington, 451,561 speeding citations were issued, along with 42,954 cell phone/texting violations and 34,701 arrests for driving while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.

Idaho cited aggressive driving as a contributing factor in 54 percent of crashes there, with 66 individuals losing their lives those incidents.  In both states, youthful drivers, ages 15 to 19, continued to be over-involved in collisions; they are more than twice as likely as all other drivers to have a fatal or injury crash.

If you wish to choose a day in either state to not drive (or use greatest care), Friday has the highest accident reporting.  Sunday has the lowest number.

Statistically, speeding is the main bad driving habit to avoid.  Both states cite it as the most frequent contributing factor to all collisions.  Following that ill-advised behavior, other causal factors are:  failure to yield right of way, distraction, following too closely, under influence, over center line, improper backing, improper passing, and fatigue.  If you seek areas of improvement in your driving, start with those.

I’ve discussed distraction and the resulting inattention a few times in this column.  Although the mix changes up a bit, drivers seem perpetually addicted to the same old attention-snuffing activities while driving.  For 2012, Washington listed them in order of frequency:  distraction outside the vehicle, interacting with passengers/animals, using handheld electronic devices, adjusting sound systems, eating or drinking, smoking, operating hands-free electronic devices, reading, writing, grooming, or other distractions inside the vehicle.  Please note that hands-free devices are newly listed as crash causers.

Though accident probability varies with different days, places and circumstances, the most important safety factor is the driver.  You can definitely improve your odds of staying out of the statistics by simply giving due attention to the driving task and endeavoring to avoid the common contributing causes of collisions.

Readers may contact Bill Love via e-mail at