Crashes took 33,561 lives in the U.S. in 2012.
Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among Americans 2-34 years old.
National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. 2004. WISQARS leading cause of death reports, 1999-2004. Atlanta, GA. Available: http://webappa.cdc.gov/sasweb/ncipc/leadcaus10.html.
According to the U.S. 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: U.S. 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 42,642 people died in motor vehicle crashes in 2006. This is 4 percent fewer than in 1975 but 9 percent more than the lowest point in 1992. These deaths occurred in 38,588 crashes involving 57,943 motor vehicles. Since 1992, the number of fatalities has fluctuated within a fairly narrow range, from about 39,000 to over 43,000, but deaths in 2006 are the lowest in five years.
Although the U.S. population has been growing steadily since 1975, the rate of motor vehicle crash deaths per 100,000 population has declined by 31 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, and was essentially unchanged for bicyclists and occupants of large trucks.
Motor vehicle crash deaths and deaths per 100,000 people, 1975-2006
Seventy-one percent of motor vehicle fatalities in 2006 were passenger vehicle occupants, 11 percent were pedestrians, 11 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 2006 was especially high among 16-24 year-olds. At all ages, males had higher death rates than females. Males ages 20-24 had the highest rate of motor vehicle crash deaths.
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