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NHTSA People Saving People

Technology Transfer Series

Number 266, February 2002


What groups of drivers are at high risk of being at fault in multi-vehicle crashes or of being involved in a single vehicle crash in which they died? Do factors such as drivers' prior behaviors, gender, race, education level, and annual miles driven influence risk? What groups of drivers are at high risk of being killed in crashes, based on drinking behavior, including binge drinking of 5 or more drinks on one occasion, problem drinking, drinking and driving, and seat belt use?

Odds of Being a Fatality Injured or At-Fault Driver by BACTo answer these questions, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) sponsored a study by the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health to analyze data from the National Mortality Followback survey (NMFS), the 1996 National Roadside Survey (NRS), the 1993 National Survey of Drinking and Driving Attitudes and Behavior (NSDDAB), and the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) in three separate analyses.

National Mortality Followback Survey

The National Mortality Followback Survey provides historical data on the deceased drivers obtained from next-of-kin. Next-of-kin of 1,115 drivers killed in 1993 provided information about the deceased drivers' alcohol consumption, drinking and driving, and other problem behaviors.

The National Roadside Survey

The National Roadside Survey of 1996 collected data between 10 pm and 3 am on Friday and Saturday nights in the 48 contiguous states. Drivers were selected for interviews and breath tests by a geographically stratified sample. The NRS collected data on BAC, seat belt use, number of passengers, type of vehicle, and demographic characteristics of surveyed drivers.

The National Survey of Drinking and Driving Attitudes and Behavior (NSDDAB)

The National Survey of Drinking and Driving Attitudes and Behavior of 1993 collected data on people 16 and older living in non-institutional dwellings. The NSDDAB provided data on drinking and driving behaviors, seat belt use, driving exposure and demographic and socioeconomic variables.

Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS)

NHTSA's FARS collects data on all fatal traffic crashes in America that involve a motor vehicle traveling on a public road and result in a death within 30 days. FARS provided blood alcohol concentration (BAC), previous history of driving under the influence, time of crash, and type of vehicle.


NMFS-FARS data show that the risk of being killed in a single vehicle crash, compared with being killed in a multi vehicle crash in which one is not at fault is:

NMFS and Roadside Survey
Comparisons with roadside survey data showed that on Friday and Saturday nights, the likelihood of becoming a fatally injured driver is:

NMFS and Telephone Survey
Comparisons with telephone survey responses show that drivers ages 30 to 64 are 4.5 times as likely to be fatally injured if they are alcohol dependent. For the average driver age 16-64, the likelihood of becoming a fatally injured driver is:

Results of the three analyses are consistent. Alcohol consumption, alcohol dependence, and drinking and driving practices consistently are the strongest predictors of drivers being involved in crashes in which they are killed - even after adjusting for other important factors. The resulting insight into the lives of deceased drivers -- especially their alcohol-related behaviors -- has been compared with what living drivers revealed through roadside and telephone surveys. The report is a comprehensive look at fatally injured drivers and the ways they differ from drivers who are more representative of the driving public.


For a copy of Determination of Characteristics of Fatally Injured Drivers (43 pages), write to Research and Traffic Records, NHTSA, NTS-31, 400 Seventh Street, S.W., Washington, DC 20590; or send a fax to (202) 366-7096. Paul J. Tremont, Ph.D., was the project officer for this study.

U.S. Department
of Transportation
National Highway
Traffic Safety

400 Seventh Street, S.W. NTS-31
Washington, DC 20590

Traffic Tech is a publication to disseminate information about traffic safety programs, including evaluations, innovative programs, and new publications. Feel free to copy it as you wish.

If you would like to receive a copy contact:

Linda Cosgrove, Ph.D., Editor, Evaluation Staff
Traffic Safety Programs
fax (202) 366-7096