Corrected on 8/11/08: A previous version of this article misstated the interval during which rates of fatal crashes decreased. The decreases occurred between 1977 and 2001.
Morgan Freeman, star of The Dark Knight, has been released from the hospital after undergoing surgery to treat serious injuries he sustained in a crash last Sunday. Freeman, who was reportedly wearing his seat belt and was sober at the time of the wreck, is fortunate. Andrea Pininfarina, a famed Italian car designer, was not. He died Thursday in Turin when the Vespa scooter he was driving struck a car that hadn't stopped at an intersection. For all except the oldest men, motor vehicles accidents are the leading cause of accidental death. (Falls overtake crashes among men older than 75.)
Here are five facts you might not know about men and traffic accidents:
1. About twice as many men as women are killed each year in crashes. That high fatality rate holds up even when researchers control for the fact that men tend to drive more miles, Carnegie Mellon University researchers have shown.
2. Drivers with sleep apnea, a nighttime breathing disorder, are three to five times more likely to be in a serious car accident. Men are twice as likely as women to have the condition, according to the Mayo Clinic.
3. The bulk of drunk-driving deaths involve men. A National Safety Council analysis found this year that men account for 81 percent of all drivers with blood alcohol concentrations of 0.08 or greater who are involved in fatal crashes.
4. Men are more likely to speed. That difference is especially pronounced among young men, according to the National Safety Council analysis.
5. Despite all that, the roads are becoming safer for both sexes. The rate of fatal crashes per 100 million miles decreased by 48 percent for women and 45 percent for men between 1977 and 2001. The actual number of men killed in car crashes declined 9 percent. Because the number of women driving has increased, the total number of women killed went up 8 percent during that period, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
To learn more about your traffic risk based upon your age, gender, car type, and other factors, try this interactive tool developed by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety and Carnegie Mellon researchers. For more about why men are prone to risky behavior, take a look at my earlier post on the subject.