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Head-on car crash survival rates increase with being younger, male and driving a big vehicle

A study by a doctoral student in epidemiology at the Indiana University Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis showed that vehicle inequities have a significant impact on survivability in head-on collisions. Motor vehicle crashes are the most common cause of unintentional life lost around the world, with about 30,000 deaths occurring annually in the US due to motor-vehicle crashes.

Uzay Kirbiyik conducted a study of risk factors associated with drivers’ survival in head-on vehicle collisions by examining Fatality Analysis Reporting System database records in 1,108 crashes.

The results showed that the driver’s chance of survival was increased by driving a vehicle with a higher mass, driving a newer vehicle, being younger, being a male, using a seatbelt and having the airbag deployed in the crash.

Kirbiyik said his study found that more women die in head-on collisions, but deferred to medical trauma experts to explain why.

The study concludes that “vehicle inequity”, which includes differences like height and rigidity as well as weight, was a major cause of drivers’ fatalities. According to Kirbiyik, if you are in an automobile, given that other variables are equal, you are 17 times more likely to die compared to a driver of a light truck. This ratio is about nine times for a collision with an SUV.

According to the study, there were more young people between the ages of 15 and 24 involved in head-on collisions than any other age group. That age group accounts for 21% of the collisions, and the rate of death among that age group is 39%, the lowest among all age groups.

An intervention that reduces the involvement of younger drivers will likely help reduce the death rate of other age groups. This shouldn't be a surprise, but it is not an easy task to do.

—Uzay Kirbiyik

Kirbiyik presented his study, “Factors affecting survival in head-on vehicle collisions” on 17 Nov. at the annual meeting of the American Public Health Association in New Orleans.



Young aggressive male drivers kill others with their trucks (and buses) and not themselves? This makes sense!

The same can be said about young male police and bus drivers.

The record could be one unionized male bus driver in Toronto with five accidents/year and still driving.

Many unionized young male bus drivers in Toronto and Montreal have more than 2 accidents/year and still driving. Cost can be as high as $200,000/year per accident prone fully protected bus driver. It keeps 10+ lawyers busy year round.

OTOH, a male acquaintance drove a bus in Hartford for 35 years with only one minor accident.


To think about driving a big vehicle because it is safer is irrational. The leading causes of death are cancer and heart/respiratory failure/strokes. Yet, people think nothing of tail gaiting a big diesel truck spewing out carcinogenic particulate while eating a McDonalds hamburger and afterwards smoking a cigarette. My own experience tells me that the single largest factor affecting your possible demise from a vehicle accident is your own personal ability to pay attention to your driving and that of others around you.
Additionally I suspect that deaths for drivers of small cars who pay attention to the road are far lower than deaths for drivers of SUVs that don't.

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