Yearly snapshot | 2009

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).

Trends

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.

Number of deaths, crashes, and motor vehicles in fatal crashes, 1975-2009
YearDeathsCrashesMotor vehicles
197544,52539,16155,534
197645,52339,74756,084
197747,87842,21160,516
197850,33144,43364,144
197951,09345,22364,762
198051,09145,28463,485
198149,30144,00062,699
198243,94539,09256,455
198342,58937,97655,106
198444,25739,63157,972
198543,82539,19658,272
198646,08741,09060,792
198746,39041,43861,836
198847,08742,13062,703
198945,58240,74160,870
199044,59939,83659,292
199141,50836,93754,795
199239,25034,94252,227
199340,15035,78053,777
199440,71636,25454,911
199541,81737,24156,524
199642,06537,49457,347
199742,01337,32457,060
199841,50137,10756,922
199941,71737,14056,820
200041,94537,52657,594
200142,19637,86257,918
200243,00538,49158,426
200342,88438,47758,877
200442,83638,44458,729
200543,51039,25259,495
200642,70838,64858,094
200741,25937,43556,253
200837,42334,17250,660
200933,80830,79745,435

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

Motor vehicle crash deaths per 100,000 people by type, 1975-2009
YearPopulationPassenger vehicle occupantsPedestriansMotorcyclistsBicyclistsLarge truck occupantsAll motor vehicle deaths*
NumRateNumRateNumRateNumRateNumRateNumRate
1975215,973,19930,60114.27,5163.53,1061.41,0030.59160.444,52520.6
1976218,035,16431,72414.57,4273.43,2321.59140.41,1000.545,52320.9
1977220,239,42532,82314.97,7323.54,0041.89220.41,2290.647,87821.7
1978222,584,54534,92315.77,7953.54,4482.08920.41,3150.650,33122.6
1979225,055,48735,02615.68,0963.64,7122.19320.41,3720.651,09322.7
1980227,224,71934,99615.48,0703.64,9552.29650.41,1830.551,09122.5
1981229,465,60833,71114.77,8373.44,7372.19360.41,0820.549,30121.5
1982231,664,49629,65612.87,3313.24,2671.88640.49170.443,94519.0
1983233,791,90329,15412.56,8262.94,0991.88300.49600.442,58918.2
1984235,824,78330,09312.87,0253.04,4251.98380.41,0400.444,25718.8
1985237,923,73229,84712.56,8082.94,4151.98690.49410.443,82518.4
1986240,132,84132,22413.46,7792.84,3091.89290.48920.446,08719.2
1987242,289,02333,14513.76,7452.83,8321.69400.48210.346,39019.1
1988244,498,83634,10513.96,8702.83,4911.49010.48860.447,08719.3
1989246,819,11933,59913.66,5562.73,0301.28220.38220.345,58218.5
1990249,464,39632,71113.16,4822.63,1281.38530.36840.344,59917.9
1991252,153,09230,81012.25,8012.32,7021.18360.36500.341,50816.5
1992255,029,69929,45711.65,5492.22,2910.97170.35800.239,25015.4
1993257,782,60829,99411.65,6492.22,3460.98060.35900.240,15015.6
1994260,327,02130,82011.85,4892.12,2150.97960.36580.340,71615.6
1995262,803,27631,91312.15,5842.12,1380.88280.36340.241,81715.9
1996265,228,57232,35412.25,4492.12,0770.87610.36020.242,06515.9
1997267,783,60732,34312.15,3212.02,0560.88110.37170.342,01315.7
1998270,248,00331,78111.85,2281.92,2270.87570.37390.341,50115.4
1999272,690,81332,00811.74,9391.82,4190.97500.37470.341,71715.3
2000282,192,16232,10911.44,7631.72,8291.06890.27370.341,94514.9
2001285,102,07531,93811.24,9011.73,1231.17290.36910.242,19614.8
2002287,941,22032,72411.44,8511.73,1871.16630.26750.243,00514.9
2003290,788,97632,16611.14,7741.63,6411.36260.27030.242,88414.7
2004293,655,40431,75010.84,6751.63,9041.37220.27430.342,83614.6
2005296,410,40431,45510.64,8921.74,4601.57840.37580.343,51014.7
2006299,398,48430,62810.24,7951.64,6991.67690.37740.342,70814.3
2007301,621,15729,1559.74,6991.65,0501.76990.27450.241,25913.7
2008304,059,72425,5478.44,4141.55,1121.77160.26150.237,42312.3
2009307,006,55023,4377.64,0921.34,2811.46300.24570.133,80811.0
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

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.

Motor vehicle crash deaths by type, 1975-2009
YearPassenger vehicle occupantsPedestriansMotorcyclistsBicyclistsLarge truck occupantsOtherAll motor vehicle deaths
Num%Num%Num%Num%Num%Num%Num
197530,601697,516173,10671,003291621,383344,525
197631,724707,427163,232791421,10021,126245,523
197732,823697,732164,004892221,22931,168247,878
197834,923697,795154,448989221,3153958250,331
197935,026698,096164,712993221,3723955251,093
198034,996688,070164,9551096521,1832922251,091
198133,711687,837164,7371093621,0822998249,301
198229,656677,331174,2671086429172910243,945
198329,154686,826164,0991083029602720242,589
198430,093687,025164,4251083821,0402836244,257
198529,847686,808164,4151086929412945243,825
198632,224706,779154,309992928922954246,087
198733,145716,745153,832894028212907246,390
198834,105726,870153,491790128862834247,087
198933,599746,556143,030782228222753245,582
199032,711736,482153,128785326842741244,599
199130,810745,801142,702783626502709241,508
199229,457755,549142,291671725801656239,250
199329,994755,649142,346680625901765240,150
199430,820765,489132,215579626582738240,716
199531,913765,584132,138582826342720241,817
199632,354775,449132,077576126021822242,065
199732,343775,321132,056581127172765242,013
199831,781775,228132,227575727392769241,501
199932,008774,939122,419675027472854241,717
200032,109774,763112,829768927372818241,945
200131,938764,901123,123772926912814242,196
200232,724764,851113,187766326752905243,005
200332,166754,774113,641862617032974242,884
200431,750744,675113,9049722274321,042242,836
200531,455724,892114,46010784275821,161343,510
200630,628724,795114,69911769277421,043242,708
200729,155714,699115,0501269927452911241,259
200825,547684,414125,11214716261521,019337,423
200923,437694,092124,2811363024571911333,808

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

Motor vehicle crash deaths per 100 million miles traveled, 1975-2008
YearDeathsMiles travelled (millions)Rate
197544,5251,330,0743.35
197645,5231,409,1633.23
197747,8781,476,5673.24
197850,3311,548,2133.25
197951,0931,529,1333.34
198051,0911,520,8573.36
198149,3011,550,2713.18
198243,9451,592,4812.76
198342,5891,649,1062.58
198444,2571,716,7682.58
198543,8251,774,7622.47
198646,0871,838,2402.51
198746,3901,924,3272.41
198847,0872,025,5862.32
198945,5822,107,0402.16
199044,5992,147,5012.08
199141,5082,172,2141.91
199239,2502,239,8281.75
199340,1502,296,5851.75
199440,7162,357,5881.73
199541,8172,422,7751.73
199642,0652,482,2021.69
199742,0132,560,3731.64
199841,5012,625,3671.58
199941,7172,691,3351.55
200041,9452,749,8031.53
200142,1962,781,4621.52
200243,0052,855,7561.51
200342,8842,890,8931.48
200442,8362,962,5131.45
200543,5102,989,8071.46
200642,7083,014,1161.42
200741,2593,032,3991.36
200837,4232,973,5091.26

Age and gender

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.

Motor vehicle crash deaths per 100,000 people by age and gender, 2009
AgeMaleFemaleTotal*
PopulationDeathsRatePopulationDeathsRatePopulationDeathsRate
< 1327,482,0425712.126,271,3704901.953,753,4121,0622.0
13-156,281,2492774.45,981,9281993.312,263,1774763.9
16-198,933,4281,93721.78,470,6741,05212.417,404,1022,99017.2
20-2411,093,5523,20728.910,446,0071,0219.821,539,5594,22919.6
25-2911,115,5602,48722.410,562,1597977.521,677,7193,28415.1
30-3410,107,9741,78117.69,780,6296246.419,888,6032,40512.1
35-3910,353,0161,73216.710,185,3355965.920,538,3512,32811.3
40-4410,504,1391,85517.710,487,4666436.120,991,6052,49811.9
45-4911,295,5242,04818.111,535,5687746.722,831,0922,82212.4
50-5410,677,8471,91617.911,083,5446595.921,761,3912,57511.8
55-599,204,6661,47716.09,770,3605785.918,975,0262,05510.8
60-647,576,9331,23016.28,234,9904966.015,811,9231,72610.9
65-695,511,16486215.66,273,1564457.111,784,3201,30711.1
70-744,082,22666116.24,925,5214068.29,007,7471,06711.8
75-793,149,23659418.94,176,2923879.37,325,52898113.4
80-842,298,26056124.43,524,07446713.35,822,3341,02817.7
≥ 851,782,67449227.63,847,98741310.75,630,66190516.1
Total*151,449,49023,72615.7155,557,06010,0706.5307,006,55033,80811.0
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

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).

Motor vehicle crash deaths per 100,000 people by age group,1975-2009
 < 1313-1920-3435-69≥ 70
PopulationNumRatePopulationNumRatePopulationNumRatePopulationNumRatePopulationNumRate
197545,851,3043,6437.929,795,0238,74829.450,998,09815,07429.674,764,82913,08017.514,563,9453,77525.9
197645,000,7043,4247.629,909,4149,35631.352,745,00515,51729.475,419,92113,13717.414,960,1203,89626.0
197744,337,3323,3477.529,800,3139,63332.354,497,44817,28731.776,203,08313,46017.715,401,2493,85925.1
197843,907,4673,3677.729,543,2529,94033.655,909,06318,88633.877,348,22214,02018.115,876,5413,82424.1
197943,778,9593,1717.229,077,6079,92034.157,499,19719,67534.278,311,10714,23218.216,388,6173,77223.0
198043,914,3423,0486.928,486,4879,52433.458,814,39120,11034.279,111,52214,21918.016,897,9773,86122.8
198144,049,9402,7336.227,743,9478,31530.060,563,41619,88732.879,785,59113,95017.517,322,7143,87122.3
198244,131,5962,5735.827,160,5867,32327.061,099,52417,46528.681,488,90212,68515.617,783,8883,65520.6
198344,119,2972,5185.726,737,4976,80525.561,840,15416,85327.382,861,20412,48815.118,233,7513,73420.5
198443,978,0442,4225.526,435,8856,95226.362,491,25517,57928.184,256,66113,00615.418,662,9384,05221.7
198544,260,1362,4695.626,001,2476,73725.962,961,15417,03127.185,628,41013,12615.319,072,7854,20622.1
198644,755,4542,5375.725,592,4817,46629.263,115,88918,13228.787,205,53713,26315.219,463,4804,44522.8
198745,348,2472,6545.925,209,6157,29328.963,032,29817,67628.088,808,04614,07415.819,890,8174,55522.9
198845,942,9662,7015.925,004,4457,24229.062,784,73917,61328.190,464,40614,45816.020,302,2804,92524.3
198946,690,6042,6585.724,664,3006,68827.162,494,05616,51226.492,250,76214,65115.920,719,3974,94323.9
199047,472,5272,3324.924,404,7956,36426.162,282,68316,36626.394,140,10814,56815.521,164,2834,84422.9
199148,240,7472,2574.724,066,5875,76023.962,025,75014,94924.196,068,11113,58714.121,751,8974,84322.3
199248,903,6682,1654.424,163,1755,21521.661,427,10013,44521.998,214,53913,41413.722,321,2174,90122.0
199349,335,8642,1644.424,664,0915,42122.060,582,33213,45622.2100,399,64813,74813.722,800,6735,22122.9
199449,692,4622,3014.625,219,8385,63222.359,629,35113,02021.8102,541,52514,25113.923,243,8455,42523.3
199549,920,4842,2014.425,764,3005,67522.058,712,40713,33022.7104,712,32815,01814.323,693,7575,50923.3
199650,085,1882,1864.426,357,1985,81922.157,753,91012,86922.3106,975,95315,49614.524,056,3235,57823.2
199750,364,9832,1084.226,730,8125,73021.457,046,56912,33421.6109,232,42615,86014.524,408,8175,87224.1
199850,527,4762,0324.027,174,7285,61020.656,421,05311,78520.9111,331,19516,18514.524,793,5515,79823.4
199950,667,1391,9973.927,518,1565,75220.955,961,40111,84021.2113,451,31216,38414.425,092,8055,65722.5
200052,219,4231,8883.628,326,4125,68520.158,971,70912,17420.6117,114,73916,70014.325,559,8795,37921.0
200152,341,3951,7513.328,437,7115,59419.759,465,06612,37520.8119,060,43616,93414.225,797,4675,42521.0
200252,332,3061,6173.128,644,3135,95420.860,046,06812,60921.0120,913,20717,37414.426,005,3265,33220.5
200352,187,6021,6433.129,028,5005,71819.760,599,35012,36520.4122,772,57817,70514.426,200,9465,36320.5
200452,151,4061,6453.229,400,3925,64519.261,003,24012,62020.7124,762,84817,70714.226,337,5185,10619.4
200552,149,3951,5292.929,589,8545,30017.961,180,77213,02321.3126,831,71418,49114.626,658,6695,04718.9
200652,306,9081,4302.729,772,1985,15917.361,527,21913,14221.4128,907,36118,23314.126,884,7984,63617.2
200752,585,8091,2692.429,775,9434,98116.761,623,32212,53120.3130,500,56617,72513.627,135,5174,63117.1
200852,929,7791,0472.029,710,3074,07013.761,990,54611,40618.4131,908,05816,53812.527,521,0344,29115.6
200953,753,4121,0622.029,667,2793,46611.763,105,8819,91815.7132,693,70815,31111.527,786,2703,98114.3

Seat belt use

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.

Seat belt use among fatally injured passenger vehicle occupants 13 and older by seating position, 1990-2009
YearDriverPassenger
Belt usedUnbeltedUnknownBelt usedUnbeltedUnknown
Num%Num%Num%Num%Num%Num%
19904,6382115,053692,253101,830206,5617097610
19914,9762413,585661,982101,997226,0306885110
19925,2552712,477641,82792,042245,701677909
19935,8772912,220611,925102,375275,492647789
19946,5383212,332601,75992,564295,423627318
19956,9733312,692591,77282,642295,577627919
19967,3683412,331571,91992,750305,706628079
19977,5613512,288571,84792,867315,497608109
19987,7973612,033561,78682,814325,169597258
19997,8343612,252561,79382,748325,249607008
20008,1993811,841541,75482,957335,212587448
20018,5093911,638531,70082,844325,178597378
20028,7863912,028531,70583,151355,093576878
20039,2394211,274511,66683,127364,851557739
20049,4564311,027501,45073,132374,768566227
20059,3154211,133511,48973,122384,551556348
20069,1624210,874501,53272,964384,250546789
20078,9154310,070491,53772,902384,007536819
20087,794439,160501,30172,536393,495544737
20097,392448,180491,21172,346403,013524618

Speeding

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).

Motor vehicle crash deaths involving speeding as a contributing factor, 2000-2009
 Speeding-relatedNot speeding-relatedTotal
Num%Num%Num
200012,5523029,3937041,945
200112,9243129,2726942,196
200213,7993229,2066843,005
200313,4993129,3856942,884
200413,2913129,5456942,836
200513,5833129,9276943,510
200613,6093229,0996842,708
200713,1403228,1196841,259
200811,7673125,6566937,423
200910,5913123,2176933,808

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).

Crash deaths involving speeding as a contributing factor by road type, 2009
 Speeding-relatedNot speeding-relatedTotal
Num%Num%Num
Interstates and freeways1,279312,796694,075
Other major roads5,2152813,6727218,887
Minor roads3,589395,575619,164
All road types*10,5913123,2176933,808
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

When they died

In 2009, February had the lowest number of crash deaths.

Motor vehicle crash deaths by month, 2009
MonthDeaths%
January2,6088
February2,3517
March2,5808
April2,8678
May3,0449
June3,0599
July3,0439
August3,1619
September2,8909
October2,8819
November2,7278
December2,5978
Total33,808100

In 2009, 51 percent of crash deaths occurred on Friday, Saturday or Sunday.

Motor vehicle crash deaths by day of week, 2009
Day of weekDeaths%
Sunday5,54916
Monday4,12912
Tuesday3,90912
Wednesday4,05412
Thursday4,39013
Friday5,33316
Saturday6,44419
Total33,808100

In 2009, crash deaths occurred most often between 3pm and 9pm (32 percent).

Motor vehicle crash deaths by time of day, 2009
Time of dayDeaths%
Midnight-3am4,37813
3am-6am2,8248
6am-9am3,0419
9am-noon3,23610
Noon-3pm4,40413
3pm-6pm5,46816
6pm-9pm5,42016
9pm-midnight4,76714
Total*33,808100
*Total includes other and/or unknowns


References