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Is one type of car accident the most dangerous?

Car accidents take four basic forms: The head-on crash, the rollover crash, the side impact and the rear-end accident.

What you may be wondering is if any one type is clearly the most dangerous, or if they all carry the same risk. When looking at multi vehicle accidents, the statistics paint an interesting picture. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety:

  • 7,063 people died in head-on crashes, or 57 percent.
  • 3,933 people died in side impacts, or 32 percent.
  • 758 people died in rear-end accidents, or 9 percent.
  • 148 people died in "other" accidents, which were mostly rollover wrecks. That's just 2 percent.

That data comes from 2016.

At first glance, it appears to suggest that head-on crashes are the most dangerous. Well over half of all deaths happen in just this one type of wreck. Certainly, that may be a correct reading of the data.

However, it is important to note that the data looks at raw numbers, so it could just be that there are far more head-on accidents. The total number of crashes is not given -- just the number of fatal accidents. For instance, if 75 percent of all crashes are head-on crashes and just 10 percent of all accidents are side impacts, that makes it clear that side impacts are taking a disproportionate amount of lives.

Even so, your odds of being injured or killed do appear to be greatest in a head-on accident, whether that just means they're more common or if they really are more likely to result in death. If you are hurt or a loved one is killed, make sure you understand your legal rights.

Source: IIHS, "Fatality Facts," accessed Dec. 19, 2017

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