Where Crashes Occur

Angela Carter once wrote "Home is where the heart is," and Thomas Wolfe penned the novel You Can't Go Home Again. But who said that most auto accidents occur close to home?

The answer is Progressive Insurance, in a survey more than 11,000 people who reported a crash in 2001. As part of an ongoing claims satisfaction survey process, Progressive asked all 11,000 crash victims how far from home they were when their accident occurred, and the results confirmed the old adage that most accidents occur at home. Interestingly enough, this data is not typically gathered by law enforcement or insurance companies.

The survey found that 52 percent of reported crashes occurred five miles or less from home and a whopping 77 percent occurred 15 miles or less from home. This, of course, should be intuitive since most people do the great majority of their driving within a close proximity of their homes, but many drivers seem more concerned about safety issues when embarking on a long, cross-country trip than when heading to the grocery store. For insurance companies, the information has a different application.

"Consumers may wonder why where they live is so important to an auto insurance company," said Alex Ho, consumer brand director, Progressive. "Most people drive most of their miles close to home and understanding the risks associated with where someone drives helps insurance companies develop more accurate rates."

When you're headed out to pick up the kids from school or buy a hammer at the hardware store, just remember that a full 23 percent of reported accidents (nearly one-quarter) occurred within one mile of home. Another 29 percent occurred two to five miles from home, while just 17 percent of accidents occurred more than 20 miles from home. And, tellingly, only one percent of reported accidents took place 50 miles or more from home. For those who look at life from a Vegas odds point of view, accidents are more than twice as likely to take place one mile from home compared to 20 miles from home.

The region with the highest percentage of reported accidents occurring less than five miles from home was the heavily populated Northeast, followed by the Midwest, West, Great Plains, Gulf, and Mid Atlantic. The region with the highest percentage (21 percent) of reported accidents that occurred 21 miles or more from home was the Great Plains, where drivers will frequently drive that far just to reach the nearest feed store, while the Northeast had the lowest percentage (14 percent).

Auto insurance companies examine claims their customers have had in a geographic area, along with other information, to help determine the cost of insurance. Companies typically consider factors such as how often crashes and thefts occur, and the cost of repairs and medical treatments in the area. Each company's claims experience can vary significantly, which is why the cost of auto insurance can vary widely from company to company.

"We want consumers to know exactly how their rates are determined so they can make more informed insurance decisions," said Ho.

An informed decision you can make is to drive carefully whether you're venturing out of a transcontinental journey, or just running out for a loaf of bread.

Born in Boston, Tom Ripley has ventured far from home, now residing in Villeperce, France, where he reports on human frailties and automotive issues.