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At any time of year, getting behind the steering wheel of a vehicle means you’re assuming some level of risk of getting into an accident. Weather, traffic volume and speed are all factors that can vary widely depending on the time of year, affecting the likelihood and the severity of a collision.
What time of year do most car accidents happen? Generally, more cars on the road means drivers are more likely to have a fatal collision. According to the National Safety Council (NSC), most accidents occur across the U.S. during the summer and fall months. In 2020, the highest number of motor vehicle deaths occurred in August (3,802), followed closely by October (3,793) and July (3,789) — these were also the months with the highest number of miles traveled.
June and September 2020 both recorded 1.51 deaths per 100 million miles traveled, the highest-rating months over the year. The NSC figures from April 2020 show the fewest deaths that month (2,320), but also the fewest miles traveled (165.8 billion), resulting in a rate of 1.40 deaths per 100 million miles traveled.
While there are fewer cars on the road during the winter months, icy conditions and bad weather mean winter car accidents can be more common but less serious than those in the summer. The NSC’s numbers show that there were more non-fatal crashes in January 2020 (551,000) than in August 2020 (446,000), but the number of fatal crashes in August (3,487) was greater than January (2,469).
According to California’s Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System, there were 158,207 fatal and injury crashes on the state’s roads in 2021. This is up slightly from 2020 (146,972), but both those years are down from 2019 (190,649). This could be due to more people working at home because of the COVID-19 pandemic, meaning fewer commuters driving to and from their offices.
If you look at the numbers over the last five years, there have been an average of 177,685 car accidents per year in California. How many car accidents per day is that? With 365 days per year, it averages out to 487 accidents each day.
According to the NSC’s analysis of 2020 data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, fatal crashes are more likely to happen on Saturday than on any other day of the week. Approximately 17% of all fatal crashes in 2020 occurred on Saturdays, compared to 15.6% on Sundays and 15.4% on Fridays.
The numbers decrease somewhat for non-fatal accidents over the weekend. According to the NSC, Saturdays and Sundays had the lowest percentage of non-fatal crashes during the week at 13.2% and 11% respectively. The figures started at 13.8% on Mondays and increased as the week moved forward, peaking at 16.9% of non-fatal crashes occurring on Fridays.
What Time of the Day Do Most Car Accidents Occur?
As with days of the week, determining what time of day most traffic crashes occur depends on whether they’re fatal or not. For non-fatal crashes, the NSC’s analysis of 2020 data found the most common window was between 4 p.m. and 7:59 p.m. This is consistent across most days of the week, with Saturday being the only outlier (3.4% of non-fatal crashes between noon and 3:59 p.m. compared to 3.3% between 4 p.m. and 7:59 p.m.).
When it comes to fatal crashes, the peak window across all months is again between 4 p.m. and 7:59 p.m. – though, just barely. In 2020, 23% of fatal crashes occurred in these hours, with another 22.5% occurring between 8 p.m. and 11:59 p.m.
A wrong way crash is likely to result in death, but the NSC’s fatal crash figures don’t quite line up with statistics published by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). In a 2013 special report on wrong way driving, the NTSB found that the highest number (31%) of wrong way crashes occurred between midnight and 3 a.m. They also found that 22% of wrong way crashes occurred on Saturdays and 21% on Sundays.
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