Crashes took 32,367 lives in the U.S. in 2011.
Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among Americans ages 3-34 combined.
National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. 2010. WISQARS leading cause of death reports, 1999-2007. 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 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, speeding, 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 33,808 people died in motor vehicle crashes in 2009. These deaths occurred in 30,797 crashes involving 45,435 motor vehicles. This was the lowest loss of life on our highways since 1975, the first year national records on fatal crashes were collected.
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 47 percent. During the 35 years in which national fatal crash data have been collected, the death rate per 100,000 population in 2009 was as low as or the lowest it has ever been in every category but motorcyclists
Motor vehicle crash deaths and deaths per 100,000 people, 1975-2009
Sixty-nine percent of motor vehicle fatalities in 2009 were passenger vehicle occupants, 12 percent were pedestrians, 13 percent were motorcyclists, 2 percent were bicyclists, and 1 percent were occupants of large trucks.
In 2009, the rate of motor vehicle crash deaths per 100 million miles traveled reached an all-time low of 1.14. 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, 1975-2009
At all ages, males had higher per capita crash death rates than females in 2009. Males ages 20-24 and 85 and older had the highest rates of motor vehicle crash deaths.
From 1975 to 2009, the rate of deaths per 100,000 people declined by 75 percent for people 12 and younger ( from 7.9 to 2.0 per 100,000), 60 percent for teenagers (from 29.4 to 11.7 per 100,000), 47 percent for people ages 20-34 (from 29.6 to 15.7 per 100,000), 34 percent for people ages 35-69 (from 17.5 to 11.5), and 45 percent for people 70 and older (from 25.9 to 14.3 per 100,000).
According to a national daytime observational survey of motorists, seat belt use was 85 percent among front seat occupants in 2010
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. 2010. Seat belt use in 2010-overall results. Report no. DOT HS-811-378. Washington, DC: US Department of Transportation.
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.
Unrestrained vehicle occupants are more likely than restrained occupants to be fatally injured in a crash so that belt use is much lower among fatally injured occupants. Among fatally injured passenger vehicle occupants 13 and older in 2009, 44 percent of drivers and 40 percent of passengers were belted.
In 2009, 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 2000. 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 2009, the percentage of crash deaths involving speeding was higher on minor roads (39 percent) than on interstates and freeways (31 percent) or on other major roads (28 percent).
In 2009, February had the lowest number of crash deaths.
In 2009, 51 percent of crash deaths occurred on Friday, Saturday or Sunday.
In 2009, crash deaths occurred most often between 3pm and 9pm (32 percent).
©1996-2013, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Highway Loss Data Institute | www.iihs.org
Subscribe to news updates
Watch our channel
Mobile ratings & news