Most Fatal Traffic Accidents Occur When?

People happen to possess a perception that more fatal traffic accidents tend to take place late at night than during day. I decided to settle the debate once and for all. Here’s the result of my research.

Regardless of whether you believe in this myth, authoritative data by the NCRB clearly suggests otherwise. For the uninitiated, the NCRB is a government agency under Ministry of Home Affairs, Govt. of India.

Background

In India, law and order is a state subject by the provisions of the Constitution. What that means is that the states have administrative and legislative control over law and order. Naturally, everyday law enforcement organisations are maintained by the respective state governments, the Centre assisting the states as may be required by them.

The NCRB is responsible for collating and analysing crime statistics as sent to it by the respective states in charge of regular law enforcement organisations. It maintains a national database of crime, accidental deaths and suicides.

The Figures

NCRB maintains a dataset of Accidental Deaths and Suicides. Data relating to traffic accidents are collated under this category.

Traffic Accidents include all accidents involving roads, railways or both that caused death. Not surprisingly, road accidents take the lion’s share.

The data catalog I used is the UT-wise traffic accidents by time of occurrence.  

Traffic Accidents in India By Time (Year 2014)
Fatal Traffic Accidents that took place throughout India in 2014, sorted into 3 hour-slots. Data Source: National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB)

Above is the data for 2014. It clearly shatters the misconception that most fatal traffic accidents take place late at night.

 

Data from the previous year, 2014, tells a similar story, as below.

Year 2013
Fatal Traffic Accidents that took place throughout India in 2013, sorted into 3 hour-slots. Data Source: National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB)

Going back to older data, compiling the data of years 2001 through 2012, the very same trend emerges.

Years 2001-2012
Fatal Traffic Accidents that took place throughout India 2001-2012, sorted into 3 hour-slots. Data Source: National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB)

From the above data, it is evident that most such traffic accidents occur between 3 o’clock in the afternoon and 9 o’clock at night. 

In other words, the most such traffic accidents take place when traffic is the heaviest, that is, in the afternoon and evening, when people return from schools and offices. 

The count dips after 9 o’clock at night, as traffic lessens, and drastically drops after midnight, when there are very little vehicles on the road. It again picks up after 6 o’clock in the morning, when vehicles start appearing on the road. It rises sharply during office time, 9 AM to 12 Noon, and again falls a bit during lunch time (12 Noon to 2 PM), when drivers take vehicles off the road to have some treats.

Epilogue

Consistent data clearly defies the common (incorrect) perception among people that most fatal traffic accidents take place late at night.

However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you have a lesser chance of being involved in a fatal traffic accident at night. Keep in mind that traffic volume decreases at night. Without authoritative data on traffic volume by time of the day (which I’ve been unable to find), it is bad data science to reach any such a conclusion.

What I can tell you is that more people are killed in the late afternoon and evening than late at night in traffic accidents. What I cannot tell you is how much more/less likely you are to be involved in a fatal road accident late at night than during day.

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