Pennsylvania Car Accident Statistics

Dec 30, 2022 - Car Accidents

Each year, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) publishes a Crash Facts & Statistics report with car accident data from the prior year. PennDOT recently released its Crash Facts & Statistics for 2021. Below are some of the most notable figures.

The Total Number of Reportable Traffic Crashes in 2021 was the Second Lowest Since 1950

In the introduction to the Crash Facts & Statistics report for 2021, PennDOT writes, “In 2021, there were 117,899 reportable traffic crashes in Pennsylvania. . . . [T]he 2021 total of reportable traffic crashes is the second lowest total since 1950 when 113,748 crashes were reported.” The lowest total (104,475) occurred in 2020—the first full year of the COVID-19 pandemic.

While it is good to see that car accidents may be on the decline, 117,899 is still a lot of collisions. This figure equates to 323 car accidents in Pennsylvania every single day. PennDOT also reports that in 2021:

  • There were about 13 car accidents every hour in Pennsylvania.
  • About 1 out of 50 Pennsylvania residents was involved in a reportable car accident in 2021.
  • About 1 out of 186 Pennsylvania residents was injured in a car accident in 2021.

While Car Accidents Are Declining, Car Accident Fatalities Are On the Rise

Even though the total number of car accidents in Pennsylvania has dropped in recent years (compare 2021’s total of 117,899 to 2017’s total of 128,188), the number of fatal car accidents in Pennsylvania is on the rise. According to PennDOT, there were 1,230 accident-related fatalities in the Commonwealth in 2021. This is the highest total in the past five years. The second-highest total over this time period was 1,190 in 2018, and we saw a five-year low of 1,059 car accident fatalities the following year:

  • 2021: 1,230 car accident fatalities
  • 2020: 1,129 car accident fatalities
  • 2019: 1,059 car accident fatalities
  • 2018: 1,190 car accident fatalities
  • 2017: 1,137 car accident fatalities

Why is this the case? It isn’t entirely clear. According to PennDOT’s data, alcohol-related and speed-related fatalities fluctuate year to year without a clear trend in one direction or the other. While some people may point to the fact that Pennsylvania’s population is growing (and the fact that, presumably, Pennsylvania’s roads are becoming more congested), PennDOT’s data indicate that the total number of vehicle miles driven is down significantly. From 2017 through 2020, the lowest number of vehicle miles traveled was 101.1 billion. In 2021, this figure dropped to 85.3 billion.

Other possible factors include an increase in distracted driving and the fact that Pennsylvania’s population is aging. Distracted driving is a leading cause of fatal car accidents nationwide, and statistically, drivers over the age of 65 get into accidents more frequently than younger drivers. But, PennDOT’s data do not point to either of these factors (or any other factors) definitively.

Collisions with Fixed Objects Are the Most Common Car Accidents (and the Most Common Cause of Death)

Somewhat surprisingly, PennDOT reports that the most common type of car accident in Pennsylvania is a collision with a fixed object. These collisions accounted for 29.1 percent of car accidents and 32.3 percent of car accident fatalities in 2021—more than any other type of collision. When focusing on car accidents involving two or more vehicles, the most common types of accidents (in order) are:

  • Collisions at an angle: 28.6 percent of car accidents and 23.6 percent of fatalities
  • Rear-end collisions: 19.7 percent of car accidents and 8.3 percent of fatalities
  • Sideswipe accidents: 7.8 percent of car accidents and 3.1 percent of fatalities
  • Head-on collisions: 4.3 percent of car accidents and 11.2 percent of fatalities
  • Other collisions: 8.0 percent of car accidents and 7.8 percent of fatalities

Cars Surpassed Pickup Trucks and SUVs to Account for the Most Collisions in 2021

According to PennDOT, light trucks (pickup trucks), vans and SUVs accounted for the greatest percentage of collisions in Pennsylvania in 2020. But, these three classes of vehicles combined were surpassed by passenger cars in 2021. Based on PennDOT’s data, just over half (50.2 percent) of all accidents in the Commonwealth last year involved cars, while 42 percent involved pickup trucks, vans and SUVs.

Vehicle Defects Caused Thousands of Car Accidents in Pennsylvania in 2021

While major vehicle defects may be relatively uncommon overall, they still account for thousands of car accidents in Pennsylvania each year. In 2021, vehicle defects were the “primary contributing factor” in more than 2,000 crashes according to PennDOT. Based on PennDOT’s data, the types of defects that most commonly cause car accidents are:

  • Tire and wheel defects (874 crashes in 2021)
  • Brake defects (672 crashes in 2021)
  • Steering system defects (400 crashes in 2021)
  • Powertrain defects (201 crashes in 2021)
  • Suspension defects (85 crashes in 2021)

Other vehicle defects identified as the primary contributing factor in car accidents in 2021 included defects in equipment used to secure cargo, lighting defects and body defects (i.e., hood latch defects).

Car Accidents Are Most Common on Friday and Saturday Afternoons

PennDOT reports that car accidents are most likely to occur between 3:00 pm and 5:00 pm. It also reports that Friday and Saturday are the most dangerous days to drive, though not by much. In contrast, Sunday is the safest day to drive (also by a small margin), and the least number of car accidents occur between 3:00 am and 5:00 am.

What about certain months of the year? October is the most dangerous month for car accidents according to PennDOT, though again not by much. While August ranks seventh most dangerous in terms of the overall risk of being injured in an accident, August had the second-highest car accident fatality total (after October) in 2021.

Have You Been Injured or Lost a Loved One in a Pennsylvania Car Accident?

If you have been injured or lost a loved one in a car accident in the Commonwealth, you have clear legal rights under Pennsylvania law. To discuss your legal rights with an attorney, you can contact us 24/7 for a free, no-obligation consultation. Call 888-777-7098 to schedule an appointment, or tell us how we can reach you online and we will be in touch as soon as possible.

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