Course Sample – A section example from our course

Since the introduction of the automobile in the United States in the early 20th Century, it has been our primary means of transportation. We value our personal freedom and mobility, and this machine allowed us to assert our independence. But this came at a cost: collisions caused by motor vehicles are now the leading cause of death for all Americans between the ages of 11 and 33.

What Causes Traffic Crashes?

What Causes Traffic Crashes?In order to address the problem of traffic crashes, we must look at what causes them. Although there may be several factors that contribute to crashes, they can all be grouped into three general categories: the roadway environment, the vehicle itself, and people. For example, the following are some of the leading causes of traffic accidents in the United States that can all be attributed to people: careless driving, failure to yield the right-of-way, driving under the influence of alcohol, and driving too fast for road conditions. These causes are largely the result of negligence, though underlying factors such as distractions, stress, judgment errors, and especially driver attitude also play a part. Those involving vehicles include mechanical failure or design flaws. Environmental factors include road conditions, road design, the weather, and environmental hazards. Of the three factors, the one that is responsible for more than 90% of all crashes is the human factor.

The Magnitude of the Problem

Traffic accidents cause a significant number of fatalities in the United States each year. In 2009, there were over 5.5 million police-reported motor vehicle traffic crashes nationwide, with 33,808 traffic-related fatalities. In addition, over 2.2 million people were injured, with more than 3.9 million crashes causing property damage. An average of 93 people died each day in motor vehicle crashes in 2009. The economic cost of motor vehicle crashes in the United States in 2000 alone was $230.6 billion dollars.

During 2010 in Michigan, there were 282,075 reported crashes, 868 of which involved fatalities. Of these accidents, 51,672 caused injuries and 229,535 caused property damage. One person died every 9 hours and 21 minutes in Michigan as the result of a traffic crash. The economic cost of motor vehicle crashes in 2009 for Michigan was $7.9 billion dollars.


Of the 33,808 people who were killed in traffic crashes nationwide in 2009, 72% were vehicle occupants and 13% were motorcyclists. The remaining 14% were pedestrians, bicyclists and other non-occupants.

In Michigan during 2010, there were 937 motor vehicle deaths. Of these, 47.4% were drivers of motor vehicles, 17.9% were passengers in motor vehicles, 14% were pedestrians, 13.3% were motorcyclists, and 3.1% were bicyclists.

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for young drivers 15 to 20 years of age in the United States. During 2009, 2,336 teens and young adults between 15 to 20 years of age were killed in traffic accidents nationwide.

DemographicsSimilarly, motor vehicle crashes are the number one cause of death for children between birth and the age of 15 in Michigan, with a disproportionate number of teens and young adults between the ages of 16 to 20 dying in motor vehicle crashes as well. During 2010, 43 children in Michigan between the ages of birth and 15 years were killed in motor vehicle crashes, which accounted for 4.2% of all traffic deaths. In 2010, there were 100 traffic-related deaths for teens and young adults between the ages of 16 to 20 years in Michigan, accounting for 10.7% of all traffic deaths in the state.

Furthermore, males accounted for 70% of all traffic fatalities nationwide in 2009. These statistics are similar for Michigan, with many more male drivers involved in crashes than female drivers. In 2010, of the 238,048 male drivers involved in motor vehicle crashes in Michigan, 916 (or 0.4%) were fatal crashes. Of the 197,183 female drivers involved in motor vehicle crashes, 374 (or 0.2%) were fatal crashes. This means that males were proportionately twice as likely to be involved in a fatal crash.

Other Factors

Approximately 53% of all the vehicle occupants nationwide that died in traffic crashes in 2009 were unrestrained. Moreover, victims who were between the ages of 13 and 15 accounted for the highest percentage of unrestrained occupants. Of 268 fatalities in this group, 180 (67%) were unrestrained.

Other FactorsDuring 2010, of the 482,388 drivers and injured passengers involved in crashes in Michigan, 421,095 (87.3%) reported to the police that they had been using an occupant restraint. However, this may not match reality, and an observational survey by the Wayne State University Transportation Research Group estimated that statewide belt use actually decreased in 2010. Children ages 11 to 15 had the lowest reported restraint usage at 80.8%.

Alcohol-related crashes claimed the lives of 10,839 people nationwide in 2009, or 32% of the overall traffic fatality total. However, there is some positive news because this total was 7.4% lower than the alcohol-related traffic fatalities in 2008. In spite of this, there was still an average of one alcohol-impaired-driving fatality every 48 minutes in 2009.

In Michigan, 283 people died in alcohol-related crashes in 2010, which was 30.2% of the total people killed that year in motor vehicle crashes. The severity of injuries reported for alcohol related crashes were much worse than those which didn’t involve alcohol.

Speeding is one of the most common and dangerous contributing factors to motor vehicle crashes. It is estimated to cost society $40.4 billion annually, or $7,300 per second. It was a factor in 31% of all fatal crashes nationwide in 2009, resulting in 10,591 deaths. As may be expected, young males were the most likely to speed. In 2009, 39% of male drivers in the 15 to 20 year old age group, and 37 % of male drivers in the 21 to 24 year old age group, were speeding at the time of a fatal crash. In Michigan during 2010, excessive speed was reported for 13% of the drivers involved in fatal crashes.

Overall, progress has been made in accident prevention, and there has been a 10% decrease in the number of motor vehicle fatalities nationwide between 2008 and 2009. In fact, 2009 marked a historic low of 1.13 fatality per 100 million vehicle miles of travel (VMT). However, even with these promising statistics, it is still important to make sure that you are doing your part and driving as safely as possible. The first step you can take is to evaluate your driving habits and to apply safe driving techniques, which will be covered in the sections that follow. The more people that drive safely, the safer the road will become.

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