Nighttime Driving Accident Statistics in the U.S.

Should you drive home late at night? How about while tired? These nighttime car accident stats could help you make a sound decision.

It’s a widely accepted fact that driving at night is more dangerous than driving during the day. Drowsy drivers, reduced visibility, limited night vision, rush hour traffic, and intoxicated drivers are a few of the reasons nighttime driving can be so deadly.

To ensure you are driving safely after dark, the National Safety Council offers the following tips:

  • Point your headlights in the proper direction.
  • Keep your headlights clean.
  • Lower your dashboard lights.
  • Avoid looking directly at oncoming lights.
  • Wear anti-reflective glasses.
  • Keep your windshield clean and streak-free.
  • Drive at or below the speed limit to make up for decreased visibility.

Following these rules can help you prevent nighttime driving accidents. However, even if you take all these driving precautions, it’s a dangerous time to be on the road.

40% of nighttime fatal accidents involved alcohol

This article will review some important statistics about nighttime driving car crashes in the United States. Unless another source is identified, all of the statistics in this article come from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) publication Traffic Safety Facts 2018.

Notable Statistics:

  • In 2018, there were 17,335 fatal nighttime crashes.
  • Over 40% of fatal nighttime car accidents involved alcohol-impaired driving.
  • More than 55% of fatal crashes that occurred between 12 and 3 a.m. involved at least one drunk driver.
  • Approximately 90,000 accidents in 2015 involved drowsy driving.

Fatal Nighttime Accident Statistics

Of the 33,654 fatal motor vehicle crashes that occurred in 2018, 17,335 (51.51%) occurred at night. (NHTSA defines “night” as the time between 6 p.m. and 5:59 a.m.)

The nighttime fatal crash rates are even higher on the weekend, which NHTSA considers to run from 6 p.m. Friday to 5:59 a.m. Monday. In 2018, 6,758 fatal accidents occurred on a weekend night (6 p.m. Friday to 5:59 a.m. Saturday and 6 p.m. Saturday to 5:59 a.m. Sunday).Fatal crashes night vs day Despite the fact that weekends only make up 14.29% of the hours in a week, weekend nighttime accidents constituted 20.08% of all fatal crashes. Similarly, only 28.57% of nighttime hours fell on a weekend, but 38.98% of nighttime accidents involving fatal injuries occurred on Friday and Saturday nights.

Nighttime accidents made up 11,345 (59.35%) of the 19,116 fatal single-vehicle crashes and 5,990 (41.20%) of the 14,538 fatal multi-vehicle accidents. In fact, nearly 20% (3,444) of all fatal single-vehicle accidents and just over 15% (2,320) of multi-vehicle crashes occurred between 6 p.m and 8:59 p.m.

Non-Fatal Nighttime Car Accidents

In 2018, 1.894 million injury-causing car crashes occurred. Less than one-third (600,000) of these accidents occurred at night.

Additionally, there were 4.807 million motor vehicle accidents that only caused property damage. Of these, only 1.409 million (29.31%) occurred during the night. In fact, only 30.10% of 2018 car crashes (2.027 of 6.734 million) took place at nighttime.

Non-fatal nighttime accident stats

Just over one-third (213,000) of the 600,000 nighttime injury-causing accidents occurred on the weekend, accounting for 11.25% of the 1.894 million total injury accidents in 2018. Of the 1.409 million nighttime accidents that only caused property damage, 489,000 (34.70%) occurred on weekend nights.

Of the 2.027 million car accidents that occurred at night in 2018, 0.85% (17,335) were fatal, 14.60% caused an injury (600,000), and 69.51% (1.409 million) only caused property damage.

Drunk Driving Nighttime Auto Accidents

Alcohol use is a serious contributing factor to the nighttime crash fatality rate. Of 2018’s 17,335 fatal nighttime car crashes, 7,054 (40.69%) involved alcohol-impaired driving. For the Department of Transportation to consider an accident to be alcohol-related, at least one driver must have had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or greater.

In 2018, 4,491 (39.59%) of the 11,345 fatal single-vehicle crashes that occurred at night involved an alcohol-impaired driver. These nighttime accidents accounted for 76.63% of the 5,861 fatal single-vehicle alcohol-involved crashes in 2018.

Additionally, 2,564 (42.80%) of the 5,990 fatal nighttime multi-vehicle crashes involved at least one impaired driver. These nighttime crashes made up 69.35% of 2018’s 3,697 fatal multi-car drunk driving accidents.

Between 12 a.m. and 2:59 a.m., the rate of fatal single-car drunk driving accidents rose to 1,482 out of 2,696 (54.97%). The highest incidence of alcohol-involved multi-vehicle accidents also occurred between 12 a.m. and 2:59 a.m., as 623 (61.68%) of the 1,010 fatal crashes included an intoxicated driver.

Fatal crashes between 12-3am

Overall, 2,105 (56.80%) of the 3,706 fatal accidents during these three hours involved at least one driver with a BAC of 0.08% or higher.

Drowsy Driving Car Crash Statistics

According to NHTSA’s fact sheet publication on drowsy driving, 90,000 car accidents (1.4% of all crashes) were caused by drowsy drivers in 2015. Additionally, 736 (2.3%) of the 32,166 fatal crashes and 824 (2.3%) of the fatalities involved tired drivers. Between 2011 and 2015, drowsy driving was involved in an average of 2.4% of all fatal crashes and 2.5% of all fatalities.

Drowsy driving accident stats

However, NHTSA acknowledges that drowsy driving accidents may be vastly underreported due to the difficulties in identifying sleep-related accidents.

Inconsistent state reporting practices and crash report form codings make it challenging to analyze data. Additionally, these numbers rely on self-reporting, which is notoriously unreliable.

The people most at risk of drowsy driving accidents include:

  • Young people
  • Men
  • Parents
  • Shift workers
  • Commercial drivers
  • People with sleep disorders

Additionally, sleep deprivation dramatically increases your risk of causing a drowsy driving crash. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, studies have shown that skipping sleep can impair your reaction time and ability to safely drive in a manner similar to intoxication.

Staying awake for 18 hours straight creates impairment that is comparable to that caused by a BAC of 0.05%. Once you go 24 hours without sleep, your level of deterioration is equal to a BAC of 0.10%. This is more than the legal limit to drive, which is 0.08% BAC or lower in every state.

If you or someone you love has been involved in a nighttime driving accident, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. You can schedule a free initial consultation with a personal injury attorney near you to determine if you have a case.

Amy Grover is a licensed attorney in the state of Ohio. After graduating magna cum laude from the University of Cincinnati College of Law, then passing the bar exam in 2014, Amy began her diverse career as a practicing attorney. Amy has a range of experience in the legal field, including work with the Department... Read More >>