Motor Vehicle Traffic Crash Fatalities

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SHARP Focus on work-related motor vehicle traffic crash fatalities

Motor vehicles are a key part of nearly every industry. Whether driving a semi-trailer truck to deliver freight or a passenger vehicle to a meeting, Washington workers operate motor vehicles for many work purposes. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), work-related roadway crashes are the leading cause of death from traumatic injuries in the U.S. workplace. Despite major advances in motor vehicle safety systems and safe driving techniques, motor vehicle crashes continue to be the most frequent type of work-related fatality in Washington State and across the nation.

On average, 19 workers died each year in Washington State in work-related motor vehicle traffic crashes during the years 1998 through 2007. Motor vehicles and the roadways they travel upon present unique challenges to ensuring the safety of vehicle operators and occupants. In order to focus prevention efforts, researchers at SHARP continue to identify the circumstances and characteristics associated with fatal work-related incidents.

In this issue of SHARP focus, we provide the results of 10 years of data on work-related motor vehicle traffic crash fatalities. The data was collected through the surveillance efforts of the Washington State Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (FACE) program. The intent of the report is to characterize fatalities by sectors of industry, specific incident types, and demographic factors. The report also offers insight into common causes of motor vehicle crashes and practical prevention strategies that can be adopted by employers and employees.

High-risk industries

The Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI), a program of the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), indicates that 11,952 work-related highway fatalities of civilian workers occurred during 1992 to 2000. These fatalities increased in number by 18.7% from 1992 to 2000 and were the leading cause of occupational fatalities throughout the period. The CFOI reported that those employed in transportation and material moving occupations (truck drivers in particular) had far higher fatality rates than workers in any other occupation group. The same was true for the number of fatalities among transportation and warehousing industry workers in Washington State. According to Washington FACE program data, the transportation and warehousing industry had 52 (27%) fatalities and drivers of various truck types made up 113 (60%) of the total work-related motor vehicle fatalities from 1998 to 2007.

In Washington State, workers from a wide distribution of industries were involved in fatal motor vehicle crashes in from 1998 to 2007. The industries with the most fatal motor vehicle crash incidents during this period were:

  1. Transportation and Warehousing.
  2. Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing, and Hunting.
  3. Construction.

These were the top 3 industries and together comprised 56% of motor vehicle crash fatalities. According to the CFOI, transportation-related fatalities were highest and construction-related were third highest nationwide. The agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting industry ranked seventh on the national level.

The remainder of the motor vehicle crash fatalities in Washington were from industries like public administration, retail trade, and information support services that are typically less associated with motor vehicle crash fatalities. These industry sectors are also less regulated in terms of motor vehicles and therefore present challenges and opportunities for innovation in implementing prevention efforts.

High risk age groups

Nationwide, the 35 to 44 year old age group suffered the highest number of work-related motor vehicle crash fatalities. In Washington State, the 35 to 44 year old age group also had the highest number of work-related motor vehicle crash fatalities with 50 (26%).

Among 35 to 44 year olds in Washington State, most work-related motor vehicle crash fatalities were in the transportation and warehousing industry (24%), followed by the agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting industry (20%), and the construction industry (10%). The 25 to 34 and 45 to 54 age groups both had 39 (21%) total work-related motor vehicle crash fatalities. FACE data indicate that young workers were killed more frequently in the agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting industry whereas older workers were killed more frequently in the transportation and warehousing industry.

Young workers

Younger workers are particularly vulnerable to motor vehicle crashes as they have less experience behind the wheel, often work in industries with little to no motor vehicle specific regulation, and often drive employer owned vehicles with which they are unfamiliar.

For the youngest age group, 16 to 19 years old, 33% of this group died in work-related motor vehicle crashes in the agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting industry. This was followed by 17% of victims in each of the construction and transportation and warehousing industries.

Workers in the 20 to 24 year old age group had about the same percentage of fatalities as the younger age group in agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting industry. The 20 to 24 year old age group, however, had a higher percentage (35%) of fatalities in the construction industry.

Older workers

The incident characteristics for older workers who die in work-related motor vehicle crashes differ from those for workers of other ages. According to the CFOI, the highest percentage (22.7%) of older worker motor vehicle crash fatalities in the nation occurred in the transportation industry. In Washington State, those aged 54 to 65 years old, were also much more likely to die in the transportation and warehousing industry, which accounted for 39% of fatalities in this age group. For Washington workers over 65 years old, 36% of fatalities were in the transportation and warehousing industry and 18% were in the agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting industry.

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