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Are drivers here in Atlanta more likely to have deadly car accidents if
they have multiple passengers in their cars? The statistics suggest the
answer is that the number of passengers in a vehicle does not greatly
affect the chance of having a crash in which people die, but the
data is not sufficient to really answer that question.

I am an Atlanta car wreck lawyer, and I have been blogging about the statistics
about Atlanta’s car wrecks in 2009 – the latest data available from Car wrecks are unavoidable, and certainly the fact that the Georgia legislature
requires us to have car insurance on our vehicles shows that we accept
that fact. Still, however, Georgia obviously wants to decrease the number
of fatalities from car wrecks here in Atlanta.

I have been looking at the data, and one of the questions I had was whether
car wrecks are more likely the more people are in a vehicle. If more passengers
equals more deadly car accidents here in Atlanta, then that fact might
affect some of our legislation – like the rules we have favoring
HOV lanes for high-occupancy vehicles.

I have been using the facts compiled by, which pulls its
information from the National Highway and Traffic Administration’s
(NHTSA) database on fatal accidents. The database is called FARS, which
stands for Fatality Analysis Reporting System.

What I found was that, while the available data is not completely clear,
at first blush it appears that the number of passengers in a vehicle did
not seem to have a major impact on whether the car would be involved in
a car crash in which someone died. While it might seem likely that more
occupants would mean more distractions to the driver, the statistics did
not suggest that the car crashes in which someone is left dead are disproportionately
slanted toward vehicles that carried multiple occupants.

In 2009, Atlanta had 45 crashes in which someone died. Of those crashes,
only 26 – which translates to 58 % – involved one or more
vehicles that were carrying passengers. In other words, nearly half of
the wrecks in which someone was killed occurred when each car involved
in the crash had just one driver. Slightly more than half involved situations
where one or both cars had a passenger. Of the fatal car wrecks that occurred
in Atlanta in 2009, 12 involved just one vehicle and one driver.

While this data suggests that the number of occupants in a vehicle does
not really affect the likelihood of a wreck, the data is missing several
critical points. In order to be sure about the answer to the question,
we would want to know the answer to several questions.

First, how many people were in each vehicle? If two vehicles and four people
were involved, we can tell there were two passengers. But did each car
have one passenger, or did one car have no passenger and the other car
have three? Only three of the 45 wrecks involved vehicles that clearly
had more than one passenger. Two single-vehicle accidents involved three
people, making it apparent that the vehicle that wrecked had three people
riding in it. Another two-car accident involved two vehicles with five
people, showing that at least one of the two vehicles had a driver and
two passengers. For a number of the remaining car accidents in which someone
here in Atlanta died, the statistics either show only one person was in
each vehicle or are vague as to whether each vehicle had one passenger
or one vehicle had multiple passengers and the other had simply a driver.

Second, if one vehicle had occupants and the other did not, which car caused
the wreck?

Third, we would want to know how many vehicles on our roads have only one
occupant. Of course, the more vehicles on our roads that have only one
occupants, the more crashes in which we would expect those vehicles to
be involved.


Lee’s peers have named her a Georgia SuperLawyer every year for two decades.