Kevin Mabe, the Farmers Insurance economist who conducted the study, found that wearing a seat belt continues to be the most significant factor in preventing multi-vehicle fatalities. “Once again, we find strong statistical evidence that seat belts remain the most important protection for the driver,” he said.
While analyzing the 2006 DOT crash data, Farmers Insurance incorporated 41 variables, including driver demographics, vehicle safety features, road and traffic conditions and the locations and times of the accidents to produce a comprehensive study.
“Controlling for these additional external factors allows us to more precisely isolate the degree to which safety belts save lives,” Mabe said.
The study also revealed that rear-end collisions, dry driving conditions and driving larger vehicles help reduce the occurrence of fatal accidents. Driving in winter weather conditions or at night, meanwhile, increased the likelihood of a fatal crash.
“Nighttime and winter driving tended to produce more deadly accidents, and drivers should continue to exercise additional caution,” said Mabe.
Drivers involved in accident events such as rollovers, ejections and vehicle fires face a reduced likelihood of surviving the crash. Motorcycle accidents have higher mortality rates than other vehicles, suggesting motorcycle riders should take extra precautions.
Several factors that do not seem to impact mortality rates include driver height and weight and the region of the country where the accident took place. Age, however, may play a role: older drivers and young, new drivers are at a higher risk for being in a fatal accident.
According to the study, the best way for drivers to reduce their chances of being in fatal accidents is to simply buckle their seat belts at all times.
“A driver’s three-second choice to ‘buckle up’ will more than double his or her chances to survive a severe accident,” Mabe explains. “Farmers encourages everyone to take precaution and use their safety belts.”