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Is October the Worst Crash Month?

October is traditionally the most crash-prone month. There may be many reasons why it has earned this distinction in the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley. 

  • Urban traffic seems to be the heaviest at this time of year what with schools in session and the business “new year” in full operational mode. 
  • Summer road construction may have created new traffic patterns to learn. 
  • On the many good weather days, seasonal cyclists and motorcycle drivers remain in sizable numbers in the traffic fray, which can cause problems.
  • On the rainy days, after many months of driving on dry pavement, there’s the challenge of adjusting to slippery streets.
  • During both the morning and evening rush hours, the sun is lower in the sky causing dramatic contrasts between lit and shaded areas. (It’s visor-down time.)
  • And Thanksgiving can generate the higher crash rates normally expected from long weekend traffic. 
But speculation aside, what are the facts. Is it really true that October is the worst month for crashes? Are there any theories supported by studies explaining why this might be so? On this topic, the Ottawa-based Traffic Injury Research Foundation points to the US FARS (Fatality Analysis Reporting System) database at www.fars.nhtsa.dot.gov.
The “Reports” section of this database has the category “Crashes” which, in turn, has the sub-category “Time.” Selection of the “Time” sub-category retrieves a chart that shows Fatal Crashes and Crash Rates by Month. Fatal crashes are defined as “a police-reported crash involving a motor vehicle in transport on a traffic way in which at least one person dies within 30 days of the crash.” Crash rates are a measure of fatal crashes per 100 million Vehicle Miles Traveled each month. In the six years back to 2000, the annual total number of fatal crashes holds steady at less than 1 percent of the roughly 6 million police-reported motor vehicle crashes that occur annually in the United States. The annual percentage of injuries resulting from these crashes holds steady at about one-third. On the measure of fatal crashes per month, October is second highest in 2005, third highest in 2004, second highest in 2003, fifth highest in 2002, second highest in 2001, and fourth highest in 2000. August is the worst month for fatal crashes four times out of six (in 2004, 2003, 2002 and 2001). July is the worst in 2000 and 2005.
On the basis of these statistics, relating to fatal crashes, October (in the US anyway) would seem not to be the most crash-prone month. The summer months are more deadly. October does however, rank right up there. October is indisputably a better time for capturing the widest possible audience for a safety campaign like the “Zero Crash Month campaign”, and is probably the best time of the year to bring a major safety program to the attention of school children. For more information about Zero Crash Month go to www.zerocrashmonth.com.

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