Solving Arizona’s Crash Statistics Mystery
It’s never fun to read crash statistics. Whenever vehicles are damaged or people are injured, it’s a cringe-worthy story, whether it’s broadcast, online or in print.
It’s natural to wonder about these crashes (which, by the way, is now the preferred term for accidents.) Why, when and where do they happen? Who’s involved? At the surface, the answers might seem obvious. But lift the cover, and take a hard look at the ADOT statistics. Before you know it, easy answers disappear.
The folks at Ric’s know that the winter months are their busiest time of year for collision repairs. They and safety-conscious Arizonans everywhere ask safety-related questions. What’s causing 116,609 crashes and 895 deaths in 2015 (the year with most recent annual records)?
This year, we’re getting to the bottom of the Arizona vehicle crash mystery. Let’s go through it step by step.
Stats Don’t Support Traffic Safety Assumptions
So, what’s happening? Annual ADOT Crash Facts statistics tell us that:
- Most crashes happen in cities. It’s easy to imagine high-speed crashes on rural Arizona roads. This does happen, but Arizona vehicle crashes are mostly an urban phenomenon. About 81% of crashes occur in cities, mostly in Maricopa County. That’s where many of the state’s residents live, work and drive.
- Road conditions alone are not responsible. Most crashes on Arizona roads occur in December. In some years, when seasonal monthly totals are close, maximum crash numbers occur in October through December. OK, this is the cold part of the year. Dark skies, rain as well as snow and ice in the mountains cause dangerous roads. Aren’t these the culprit?
Nope. In December 2015, 84% of total annual crashes occurred in clear weather, and 92% happened on dry streets.
- Too much holiday merriment is not the answer. At the end of the year, we know how it goes…enthusiastic partying, too much of everything, from alcohol to vehicle speed. It’s something we all expect, right?
Maybe, but alcohol – and speed – related injuries and damage didn’t spike during year’s end. In 2014 and 2015, alcohol-related crashes peaked in March and declined during the October through December period. And, while speed was a factor in 18% of all crashes and 34% of all deaths in 2015, there’s no proof that incidents caused by alcohol or speed peaked at the end of the year.
What’s Really Going On
The answer to our mystery is surprisingly simple. During the winter (especially in December), more than the average number of people drive on Arizona roads. The staff at Ric’s and other local folks know that vehicle crash rates go up every year because:
- The number of seasonal residents goes up. From September through February, “snowbirds” (our winter visitors) take refuge from the snow, cold temperatures and biting winter wind of their Midwest and East Coast homelands. While these folks bask in the Arizona sunshine, they add thousands of drivers to our roads and highways.
- Holiday travel. Thousands of people arrive from other states to celebrate the season with friends and family. Statistics don’t prove that a party-hearty attitude (see above) drives up the crash numbers. But many people do drive to Arizona for the holidays.
- Major sports events put more people on the roads. Some years, Arizona plays host to the Super Bowl, NCAA Basketball tournament (which happens this year), NCAA football playoffs and championships and the PGA Waste Management Open golf tournament.
A Mundane Cause for Highway Crashes
OK, this might be familiar ground to most Arizonans. But why do crash totals climb at year’s end? In 2015, a group of Arizona traffic lawyers, provided a persuasive answer—failure to yield the right of way. In other words, many more people on the roads plus reluctance to let others pass or turn first might be the recipe for crunched vehicles, injuries and occasionally, deaths.
No one group of drivers is at fault. There’s literally no way to prove who’s responsible. But the fact is, when a critical mass of drivers hits the road in Arizona, failing to yield the right of way can become an important part of the crash statistics.
We welcome all our out-of-state visitors and hope they have a wonderful time in Arizona. But we also hope that they (and our Arizona drivers) will take that extra bit of care to protect themselves and everyone on the road.
If, in spite your best efforts you end up bending fenders, contact Ric’s for fast, professional service. Whether you’re a visitor or resident, we’ll fix your vehicle with highly trained techs experienced in the latest tools and methods. Call (480) 998-5969 today or visit our website!