Crashes took 33,561 lives in the U.S. in 2012.
Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among Americans 3-36 years old.
National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. 2006. WISQARS leading cause of death reports, 1999-2006. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 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: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Contributing to the death toll are alcohol, speed, lack of safety belt use, and other problematic driver behaviors. Death rates vary 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 37,261 people died in motor vehicle crashes in 2008. These deaths occurred in 34,017 crashes involving 50,430 motor vehicles. This is the lowest loss of life on our highways since 1975, the first year national records were collected by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
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 41 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, 1975-2008
Sixty-eight percent of motor vehicle fatalities in 2008 were passenger vehicle occupants, 12 percent were pedestrians, 14 percent were motorcyclists, 2 percent were bicyclists, and 2 percent were occupants of large trucks. More motorcyclists were killed in 2008 than in any year since the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration began collecting fatal crash data in 1975. In contrast, at 25,428, fewer passenger vehicle occupants died in crashes in 2008 than in any year in this time period.
In 2008, the rate of motor vehicle crash deaths per 100 million miles traveled reached an all-time low of 1.25. This is compared to a rate of 3.35 in 1975.
Federal Highway Administration. 2010. Highway statistics, 2008. Washington, DC: US Department of Transportation.
Motor vehicle crash deaths and deaths per 100 million miles traveled, 1975-2008
The rate of motor vehicle crash deaths per 100,000 people in 2008 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.
According to a national daytime observational survey of motorists, seat belt use was 84 percent among front seat occupants in 2009[ Error ] and 74 percent among rear seat occupants in 2008.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. 2009. Seat belt use in rear seats in 2008. Report no. DOT HS-811-133. Washington, DC: US Department of Transportation.
Belt use is much lower among fatally injured passenger vehicle occupants, hovering around 50 percent for the past several years.
In 2008, speeding was a factor in 31 percent of motor vehicle crash deaths. Speeding has been a factor in about one-third of crash deaths since 1998. Speeding was defined to include crashes in which the driver was issued a traffic citation for speeding or in which driver-related factors coded indicated speed as a factor (driving too fast for conditions, racing, or exceeding the posted speed limit).
In 2008, the percentage of crash deaths involving speeding was higher on minor roads (38 percent) than on interstates and freeways (31 percent) or on other major roads (28 percent).
In 2008, August had the highest number of crash deaths of any month.
Fifty-one percent of crash deaths occur on Fridays, Saturdays or Sundays.
Deaths occur most often between 3pm and 9pm (32 percent), followed by 9pm to 3am (28 percent).
©1996-2014, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Highway Loss Data Institute | www.iihs.org
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