Crashes took 32,367 lives in the U.S. in 2011.
A total of 32,885 people died in motor vehicle crashes in 2010, the lowest number of fatalities recorded since 1949, when 30,246 crash deaths occurred.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. 2011. 2010 motor vehicle crashes: overview. Report no. DOT HS-811-552. Washington, DC: US Department of Transportation.
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 32,885 people died in motor vehicle crashes in 2010. These deaths occurred in 30,196 crashes involving 44,713 motor vehicles. This was the fewest deaths, fatal crashes, and motor vehicles involved in fatal crashes on our highways since FARS was established in 1975.
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 48 percent. During the 36 years in which national fatal crash data have been collected, the death rate per 100,000 population for passenger vehicle occupants and the overall crash death rate in 2010 were all time lows.
Motor vehicle crash deaths and deaths per 100,000 people, 1975-2010
Sixty-eight percent of motor vehicle fatalities in 2010 were passenger vehicle occupants, 13 percent were pedestrians, 13 percent were motorcyclists, 2 percent were bicyclists, and 1 percent were occupants of large trucks.
In 2010, the rate of motor vehicle crash deaths per 100 million miles traveled reached an all-time low of 1.11. In contrast, the rate was 3.35 in 1975.
Federal Highway Administration. 2011. Highway statistics, 2010. Washington, DC: US Department of Transportation.
Motor vehicle crash deaths and deaths per 100 million miles traveled, 1975-2010
At all ages, males had higher per capita crash death rates than females in 2010. Males ages 20-24 and 85 and older had the highest rates of crash deaths.
From 1975 to 2010, the rate of deaths per 100,000 people declined by 77 percent for people 12 and younger (from 7.9 to 1.8 per 100,000), 65 percent for teenagers (from 29.4 to 10.3 per 100,000), 48 percent for people ages 20-34 (from 29.6 to 15.4 per 100,000), 37 percent for people ages 35-69 (from 17.5 to 11.1), and 43 percent for people 70 and older (from 25.9 to 14.9 per 100,000). The 70 and older age group was the only age group for which the death rate increased from 2009 to 2010.
According to a national daytime observational survey of motorists, seat belt use was 85 percent among front seat occupants and 74 percent among rear seat occupants in 2010.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. 2011. Occupant restraint use in 2010: results from the National Occupant Protection Use Survey Controlled Intersection Study. Report no. DOT HS-811-527. Washington, DC: U.S. 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 2010, 46 percent of drivers and 41 percent of passengers were belted.
In 2010, speeding was a factor in 32 percent of motor vehicle crash deaths. Speeding has been a factor in about one-third of crash deaths since 2001. 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 2010, the percentage of crash deaths involving speeding was higher on minor roads (39 percent) than on interstates and freeways (34 percent) or on other major roads (28 percent).
In 2010, the month of February had the lowest number of crash deaths.
In 2010, 51 percent of crash deaths occurred on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday.
In 2010, crash deaths occurred most often between 3 p.m. and 9 p.m. (32 percent).
©1996-2013, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Highway Loss Data Institute | www.iihs.org
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