Private Motor Vehicles Fatal Mishap Analysis Summary



The Naval Safety Center conducted an analysis into Navy private motor vehicles with four wheels (PMV4) fatal mishaps during the FY 2012 to 2016 timeframe to identify FY associated factors. The analysis also focused on the dramatic increase in fatal mishaps from FY 2012 to 2016.

Between FY 2012 to 2015 the Navy experienced a steady decrease in service member deaths due to fatal PMV4 mishaps. However, from FY 2015 to 2016 the Navy saw a single FY increase of 78 percent.

NAVSAFECEN data as of 03/16/2017.

NAVSAFECEN data as of 03/16/2017.

This analysis identifies alcohol, lost control and speeding violations as top contributors to fatal crashes. Based on these, as well as time of day, type of crash and day of the week, there are two items that this subject matter expert with over 20 years of crash investigator experience identified as requiring focus – fatigue and distracted driving:

  • Fatigue: This can be captured as either an adverse mental state, or adverse physiological state (mental or physical). Fatigue was noted at least 57 percent of the time due to an adverse mental state, and 43 percent of the time due to an adverse physiological state. The data identified lost control, specifically roll overs, drifting out of a lane, and not keeping eyes on the road as causes to these fatal mishaps. These crashes are occurring at night, involve a single vehicle, and some type of fatigue. It also appears that fatigue is being underreported as a personnel factor in the mishap data, which could be due to the difficulty in identifying fatigue/drowsiness as a factor after a fatal mishap. Fatigue may also play a role in crashes attributed to other causes such as alcohol.
  • Distracted Driving: While Human Factors Analysis and Classification System (HFACS) data does not specifically identify distracted driving as a separate precondition or act, one can infer this through the items that are listed in level I (e.g., attention failures, timing errors, etc.). Level II provides more granularity into these distractions by listing driver actions (e.g., drifted out of lane [not due to falling asleep], did not keep eyes on the road, reacted too slowly, etc.). Each of these actions could be attributed to the operator being distracted. Because HFACS data fields currently do not capture distracted driving as an unsafe act or a precondition that information would need to be articulated in the narrative. More in-depth data would need to be collected to include possible use of a cell phone or texting as an unsafe act.

FY 2015 to 2016 Comparison

When looking at the last two FYs for what led to the sharp increase in PMV4 fatal crashes from nine in FY 2015 to 16 in FY 2016, there was over a 100 percent increase in the number of fatal crashes occurring at night. DUI crashes took a dramatic trend upward along with fatigue, lost control and speed as crash factors.

NAVSAFECEN data as of 03/16/2017.

NAVSAFECEN data as of 03/16/2017.

NAVSAFECEN data as of 03/16/2017.

NAVSAFECEN data as of 03/16/2017.

Outside Data

After reviewing similar data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System regarding traffic crashes in calendar year 2015, it should be noted that human factors continue to contribute to the majority of crashes. Some key findings that closely parallel Navy trends are noted below:

  • The number of civilians killed in traffic crashes ended a five year trend of declining fatalities, specifically a 7.2 percent increase over the previous year.
  • Almost half of all passenger vehicle occupants killed were not wearing seat belts.
  • One in three fatalities involved drunk drivers, with the 21 to 24-year-old age group in the highest percentage.
  • One in 10 fatalities involved some type of distraction.


Based on both Navy and national data in this report, there is an alarming upward trend in fatalities. We must reiterate to our personnel that people can die when they drive under the influence, speed, do not wear seat belts, drive fatigued or are distracted while driving. There have been several vehicle improvements (e.g., side air bags, electronic stability control, lane departure warning systems, etc.) over this reporting period that have no doubt reduced traffic deaths. However, even with these improvements in place there continues to be a negative trend in fatalities.

We recommend top down involvement and intrusive leadership to promote targeted training and focus on areas where increased awareness can make a difference.

  • Zero tolerance for noncompliance with both DoD & OPNAV policy regarding seat belt use and driving under the influence.
  • Use of Travel Risk Planning System (TRiPS) with a plan to reduce fatigue behind the wheel.
  • Adherence to current laws and use of a common sense approach to not texting or using a cell phone while driving.

Learn from the mistakes of others. Be smart and drive safe.

About michael.morris