Crashes took 33,561 lives in the U.S. in 2012.
Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among Americans 5-33 years old.
National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. 2003. WISQARS leading cause of death reports, 1999-2003. Atlanta, GA. Available: http://webappa.cdc.gov/sasweb/ncipc/leadcaus10.html.
According to the US Department of Transportation, the total societal cost of these crashes exceeds $200 billion annually.
Blincoe, L.J.; Seay, A.G.; Zaloshnja, E.; Miller, T.R.; Romano, E.O.; Luchter, S.; and Spicer R.S. 2002. The economic impact of motor vehicle crashes 2000. Report no. DOT HS-809-446. Washington, DC: US Department of Transportation.
Contributing to the death toll are alcohol, speed, lack of seat belt use, and other problematic driver behaviors. Death rates vary widely by vehicle type, driver age and gender, and other factors.
In 1975, the U.S. Department of Transportation started an annual census of motor vehicle deaths, recording information on crash type, vehicle type, road type, driver characteristics, and a variety of other factors. Institute researchers analyze these data each year to quantify the public health problem of motor vehicle deaths.
The following facts are based on analysis of data from the U.S. Department of Transportation's Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS).
A total of 43,443 people died in motor vehicle crashes in 2005. This is 2 percent fewer than in 1975 but 11 percent more than the lowest point in 1992. These deaths occurred in 39,189 crashes involving 59,373 motor vehicles. Since 1992 the Numberber of fatalities has fluctuated within a fairly narrow range, from about 39,000 to more than 43,000, but deaths in 2005 are the highest since 1990.
Although the US population has been growing steadily since 1975, the rate of motor vehicle crash deaths per 100,000 people has declined by 29 percent. During the past decade, the death rate increased for motorcyclists but decreased for occupants of passenger vehicles (cars, pickups, SUVs, and vans) and pedestrians.
Motor vehicle crash deaths and deaths per 100,000 people, 1975-2005
Seventy-two percent of motor vehicle fatalities in 2005 were passenger vehicle occupants, 11 percent were pedestrians, 10 percent were motorcyclists, 2 percent were bicyclists, and 2 percent were occupants of large trucks.
The rate of motor vehicle crash deaths per 100,000 people in 2005 was especially high among 16-24 year-olds. At all ages males had much higher death rates than females. Males ages 20-24 had the highest rate of motor vehicle crash deaths.
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