Crashes took 33,561 lives in the U.S. in 2012.
The number and types of motor vehicle crash deaths differ widely among the 50 states and the District of Columbia. A state's population has an obvious effect on the number of motor vehicle deaths. Fatality rates per capita provide a way of examining motor vehicle deaths relative to a state's population. However, many factors can affect these rates, including amounts and types of travel, types of vehicles driven, travel speeds, rates of licensure, state traffic laws, emergency care capabilities, weather, and topography.
The following facts are based on analysis of data from the U.S. Department of Transportation's Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS).
There were 30,196 fatal motor vehicle crashes in the United States in 2010 in which 32,885 deaths occurred. This resulted in a national motor vehicle death rate of 10.7 deaths per 100,000 people. Motor vehicle death rates varied among states from a low of 4.0 deaths per 100,000 people in the District of Columbia, to a high of 27.5 deaths per 100,000 people in Wyoming.
States with lowest and highest rates of motor vehicle crash deaths per 100,000 people, 2010
In 2010, the types of motor vehicle crash deaths varied across states. For example, Wyoming had the lowest percentage of deaths involving car occupants (25 percent) and the highest percentage of deaths involving occupants of SUVs and pickups (44 percent). In contrast, New Jersey had relatively high proportions of car occupant deaths (42 percent) and pedestrian deaths (25 percent), and a relatively low percentage of deaths involving SUV or pickup occupants (15 percent). The highest percentage of motorcyclist deaths occurred in Rhode Island (23 percent), and the percentage of pedestrian deaths was highest in the District of Columbia (54 percent).
Nationwide, 52 percent of passenger vehicle occupant deaths in 2010 occurred in single-vehicle crashes. The highest proportions of passenger vehicle occupant deaths in single-vehicle crashes occurred in the District of Columbia (75 percent) and New Hampshire (69 percent).
Some states report blood alcohol concentration (BAC) for only a small percentage of fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers. If BAC is missing for a driver, it is imputed by the US Department of Transportation's multiple imputation model.
Subramanian, R. 2002. Transitioning to multiple imputation — a new method to impute missing blood alcohol concentration (BAC) values in FARS. Report no. DOT HS-809-403. Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
However, BAC information is most precise in states that report a high percentage of BACs. In the following table, estimated percentages of fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers with BACs at or above 0.08 percent are shown only for states in which BAC reporting was 70 percent or higher. Estimated percentages are based on known BAC when available and imputed BAC for the remaining drivers.
For the nation in 2010, BAC was reported for 70 percent of fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers. Maine reported BACs for 93 percent of fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers, while Alabama reported BACs for 16 percent. Among the 37 states with reporting rates of at least 70 percent, Rhode Island had the highest estimated percentage of fatally injured drivers with BACs of 0.08 percent or higher (51 percent), and Alaska had the lowest (20 percent).
Based on daytime observational surveys conducted by the states, the rate of seatbelt use among front seat passenger vehicle occupants in 2010 ranged from 72 percent in New Hampshire to 98 percent in Washington and Hawaii.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. 2011. Seat belt use in 2010 — use rates in the states and territories. Report no. DOT HS-811-493. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Transportation.
When examining restraint use among fatally injured motor vehicle occupants, it is important to note that percentages will be lower than observed restraint use because unrestrained occupants are more likely than restrained occupants to be fatally injured in a crash. Restrained fatally injured occupants include occupants in child safety seats and occupants restrained by safety belts. Eleven states had at least 50 percent restraint use among fatally injured passenger vehicle occupants (Alaska, California, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Texas and Washington). All of these states had at least 82 percent restraint use in the general population of front seat occupants.
Nationwide, sixty-one percent of passenger vehicle occupant deaths in 2010 occurred in rural areas. Ninety-eight percent of the passenger occupant deaths in Maine and 97 percent in Montana occurred on rural roads compared with 8 percent in Massachusetts and zero deaths in the District of Columbia.
©1996-2014, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Highway Loss Data Institute | www.iihs.org
Subscribe to news updates
Watch our channel
Mobile ratings & news