Passenger vehicle occupants | 2005

By far the largest number of motor vehicle crash deaths are occupants of passenger vehicles including cars, minivans, pickups, SUVs, and cargo/large passenger vans. The likelihood of crash death varies markedly among these vehicle types according to size. Small/light vehicles have less structure and size to absorb crash energy, so more injurious forces can reach their occupants in crashes. People in lighter vehicles are at a disadvantage in collisions with heavier vehicles. Kahane, C.J. 2003. Vehicle weight, fatality risk, and crash compatibility of model year 1991-99 passenger cars and light trucks. Report no. DOT HS-809-662. Washington, DC: US Department of Transportation. Pickups and SUVs are proportionally more likely than cars to be in fatal single-vehicle crashes, especially rollovers. However, pickups and SUVs generally are heavier than cars, so occupant deaths in SUVs and pickups are less likely to occur in multiple-vehicle crashes.

Guide to car size groups Guide to SUV size groups Guide to pickup size groups
Curb weightShadow
(overall length x width in square feet)
  Curb weight  Curb weight
≤ 8081-9091-100101-110> 110 Small≤ 3,750 lbs Small≤ 4,000 lbs
≤ 2,500 lbsMiniSmallSmallSmallMidsize Midsize3,751-4,750 lbs Large> 4,000 lbs and carrying capacity = 1/2 ton
2,501-3,000 lbsSmallSmallMidsizeMidsizeMidsize Large4,751-5,750 lbs Very large> 4,000 lbs and carrying capacity > 1/2 ton
3,001-3,500 lbsSmallMidsizeMidsizeLargeLarge Very large> 5,750 lbs or shadow > 115 sq ft  
3,501-4,000 lbsSmallMidsizeLargeLargeVery large   
> 4,000 lbsMidsizeMidsizeLargeVery largeVery large  
Note: Passenger versions of vans often referred to as minivans are classified as cars.  

The following facts are based on analysis of data from the U.S. Department of Transportation's Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) and The Polk Company's National Vehicle Population Profile.

Trends

A total of 31,322 passenger vehicle occupants died in 2005, only 2 percent more than in 1975. However, the distribution of vehicle types among these crashes has changed. Car occupant deaths have declined 23 percent since 1975, while pickup occupant deaths have risen 65 percent and SUV occupant deaths are more than 10 times as high.

Passenger vehicle occupant deaths by vehicle type, 1975-2005

Passenger vehicle occupant deaths by vehicle type, 1975-2005
YearCar occupantsPickup occupantsSUV occupantsAll passenger
vehicle occupants
197525,7153,67445530,601
197626,1634,22557731,724
197726,6984,51272932,823
197827,8985,10385234,923
197927,5185,42394535,026
198027,2815,4891,12434,995
198126,4065,2361,02133,711
198223,1424,77986229,654
198322,8004,66092029,153
198423,4804,88488630,091
198523,0764,8921,02429,847
198624,8805,3341,13132,224
198725,1155,7951,26933,145
198825,8256,0891,32034,105
198925,2696,0161,37333,599
199024,4136,0321,48032,711
199122,7385,8581,52130,810
199221,8245,4761,39029,457
199322,1175,6111,55229,994
199422,6185,6041,80930,816
199523,1245,9732,00631,913
199623,4265,9282,21032,353
199723,1515,9222,41532,331
199822,3555,9042,71131,779
199922,1196,0953,01932,008
200021,9856,0013,33232,109
200121,6046,1473,49531,938
200222,0076,0933,98732,724
200321,0535,9034,39332,166
200420,5585,7954,69531,750
200519,8116,0754,75931,322

A total of 21,880 passenger vehicle drivers died in 2005, nearly the same as in 2004 but 13 percent more than in 1975. Sixty-three percent of passenger vehicle driver deaths in 2005 were car drivers. However, the proportion of deaths involving pickup and SUV drivers is growing as the popularity of these vehicles increases.

Passenger vehicle driver deaths by vehicle type, 1975-2005
YearCar driversPickup driversSUV driversAll passenger vehicle drivers
Num%Num%Num%Num
197516,141832,48113270119,349
197616,385822,89014347220,091
197716,903813,07615434220,941
197818,047793,53516519222,758
197918,064783,73416596323,109
198017,847783,77616684322,990
198117,553783,68716623322,506
198215,234773,34517549319,663
198315,057783,21917575319,337
198415,785783,42217557320,298
198515,430773,44617645320,057
198616,503773,76418690321,503
198716,722754,08218765322,157
198817,183754,33219850422,884
198916,775744,36519877422,554
199016,200744,30720951421,953
199114,938734,25621943520,551
199214,337733,95820863419,573
199314,547734,10520977520,036
199414,913724,130201,140620,644
199515,323714,431211,248621,456
199615,379714,402201,399621,631
199715,308714,376201,537721,702
199815,035704,452211,686821,627
199914,809684,658211,986921,899
200014,719674,536212,0851021,819
200114,553674,653212,2531021,862
200214,897664,686212,5711122,537
200314,380654,567212,7841322,200
200414,038644,395203,0901421,952
200513,679634,666213,1211421,880

Passenger vehicle occupant deaths represented 72 percent of the 43,443 motor vehicle crash deaths in 2005.

Passenger vehicle occupant deaths vs. all motor vehicle crash deaths, 1975-2005
YearAll passenger vehicle
occupant deaths
Other deathsAll motor vehicle
crash deaths
Num%Num%Num
197530,6016913,9243144,525
197631,7247013,7993045,523
197732,8236915,0553147,878
197834,9236915,4083150,331
197935,0266916,0673151,093
198034,9956816,0963251,091
198133,7116815,5903249,301
198229,6546714,2913343,945
198329,1536813,4363242,589
198430,0916814,1663244,257
198529,8476813,9783243,825
198632,2247013,8633046,087
198733,1457113,2452946,390
198834,1057212,9822847,087
198933,5997411,9832645,582
199032,7117311,8882744,599
199130,8107410,6982641,508
199229,457759,7932539,250
199329,9947510,1562540,150
199430,816769,9002440,716
199531,913769,9042441,817
199632,353779,7122342,065
199732,331779,6822342,013
199831,779779,7222341,501
199932,008779,7092341,717
200032,109779,8362341,945
200131,9387610,2582442,196
200232,7247610,2812443,005
200332,1667510,7182542,884
200431,7507411,0862642,836
200531,3227212,1212843,443

Crash types

Frontal impacts accounted for 49 percent of passenger vehicle occupant deaths in 2005. Side impacts accounted for another 29 percent of passenger vehicle occupant deaths.

Passenger vehicle occupant deaths in single-vehicle crashes by impact point and vehicle type, 2005
Point of principal impactCar occupantsPickup occupantsSUV occupantsAll occupants
Num%Num%Num%Num%
Frontal4,222501,777481,085367,24347
Side2,0272460316417143,10020
Rear27936925924103
Other (mostly rollover)1,860221,226331,428484,64530
All*8,3881003,6751002,98910015,398100
*Total includes other and/or unknowns
Passenger vehicle occupant deaths in multiple-vehicle crashes by impact point and vehicle type, 2005
Point of principal impactCar occupantsPickup occupantsSUV occupantsAll occupants
Num%Num%Num%Num%
Frontal5,547491,49062954548,18451
Side4,8574364227522306,09738
Rear6676160714789996
Other (mostly rollover)3423106414486264
All*11,4131002,3981001,76710015,906100
*Total includes other and/or unknowns
Passenger vehicle occupant deaths in all crashes by impact point and vehicle type, 2005
Point of principal impactCar occupantsPickup occupantsSUV occupantsAll occupants
Num%Num%Num%Num%
Frontal9,776493,269542,0424315,44249
Side6,887351,24520939209,20029
Rear9465229420641,4094
Other (mostly rollover)2,202111,332221,572335,27117
All*19,8111006,0751004,75910031,322100
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Forty-two percent of car occupant deaths in 2005 occurred in single-vehicle crashes and 58 percent occurred in multiple-vehicle crashes. In contrast, single-vehicle crashes accounted for 63 percent of SUV occupant deaths and 60 percent of pickup occupant deaths.

Passenger vehicle occupant deaths by vehicle and crash type, 2005
Vehicle typeDeaths in
single-vehicle crashes
Deaths in
multiple-vehicle crashes
Deaths in all crashes*
Num%Num%Num
Cars8,3884211,4135819,811
Pickups3,675602,398396,075
SUVs2,989631,767374,759
Other3465132848677
All passenger vehicles15,3984915,9065131,322
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Age and gender differences

Thirty-two percent of passenger vehicle occupants killed in 2005 were younger than 25.

Passenger vehicle occupant deaths by age, 2005
AgeAll occupants
Number%
<2510,15932
25-292,8659
30-342,2337
35-392,0927
40-442,1547
45-492,0767
50-541,7866
55-591,5155
60-641,2894
65-691,0733
≥ 704,00613
All *31,322100
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Seventy percent of passenger vehicle occupants killed in 2005 were drivers; 71 percent of these drivers were males.

Passenger vehicle occupant deaths by occupant age, type, and gender, 2005
AgeDriversAll occupants
MaleFemaleTotal*MaleFemaleTotal*
Num%Num%NumNum%Num%Num
<16516725337683352780481,615
16-191,63370702302,3352,541651,348353,889
20-242,46977749233,2183,442741,213264,655
25-291,59676506242,1022,10473761272,865
30-341,25373475271,7281,56170672302,233
35-391,15670486301,6421,40567687332,092
40-441,21870514301,7321,42466730342,154
45-491,14669525311,6711,35565721352,076
50-541,01670426301,4421,16865618351,786
55-5983868390321,22894763568371,515
60-6469367334331,02778061509391,289
65-69539652923583161758456421,073
≥ 701,89267935332,8282,249561,756444,006
All*15,517716,3602921,88020,4766510,8403531,322
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Driver death rates

Computing driver death rates per million registered passenger vehicles allows for comparisons of fatal crash risk across vehicle groups. The computed rates reflect the influence of vehicle designs plus their patterns of use and the demographics of their drivers. Driver death rates are based on 1-3-year-old vehicles only so as to minimize the effects of vehicle aging. Rates based on fewer than 120,000 vehicle registrations are considered unreliable and are not included.

Since 1978 the overall rates of driver and occupant deaths per million registered vehicles have declined across all passenger vehicle types. Declines in death rates have been largest for SUV occupants.

Occupant deaths per million registered passenger vehicles 1-3 years old, 1978-2005
YearDriversAll occupants
CarsPickupsSUVsAll passenger vehiclesCarsPickupsSUVsAll passenger vehicles
1978155237273169235346438256
1979165246271180244350425265
1980167221287177248316494263
1981177216237182259296389265
1982155188229159231263392236
1983148188225153220263337225
1984147190143151218259218222
1985139182141144208257227213
1986128172134133196239224202
1987130178136136197248232205
1988134186121140206251198211
1989130185116137200255185207
1990122179126131188245201197
1991108169109117169229175178
199210215188108160200151165
19939713793102153187141156
199410013487104160178148161
1995103134102107160180157162
199610712798108168178150167
1997961189399153161146153
1998901198694141158141144
1999911209396138162139143
2000831178189127155135134
2001831307489125170116131
2002841237688126162122131
2003811167085122153113126
2004761066479114146100117
200579107557811714187114

For each vehicle type (car, pickup, SUV), the rates of driver deaths per million registered vehicles in 2005 were highest for the smallest and lightest vehicles.

Driver deaths per million registered passenger vehicles 1-3 years old, 2005

Driver deaths per million registered passenger vehicles 1-3 years old, 2005
Vehicle sizeRate
CarsMini144
Small106
Midsize70
Large67
Very large44
PickupsSmall122
Large104
Very large101
SUVsSmall60
Midsize57
Large48
Very large24

Multiple-vehicle crashes accounted for 38 driver deaths per million registered passenger vehicles in 2005, while there were 40 deaths per million in single-vehicle crashes. In single-vehicle crashes, pickups had the highest number of deaths per registered vehicle (69 per million) in 2005. In multiple-vehicle crashes, cars had the highest number of deaths per registered vehicle (46 per million), and SUVs had the lowest number of deaths per registered vehicle (21 per million).

Driver deaths per million registered passenger vehicles 1-3 years old by crash type, 2005
 Multiple-vehicleSingle-vehicleSingle-vehicle rolloverAll crashes
CarsMini945031144
Small614524106
Midsize39321470
Large43251167
Very large2716744
All cars46331679
PickupsSmall556738122
Large376742104
Very large218057101
All pickups386945107
SUVsSmall29312060
Midsize20362657
Large17302348
Very large816824
All utility vehicles21342455
All passenger vehicles38402378
Driver deaths per million registered passenger vehicles 1-3 years old, by crash type, 2005, by 2WD and 4WD for pickups and SUVs
 Multiple-vehicleSingle-vehicleSingle-vehicle rolloverAll crashes
2WD4WDAll2WD4WDAll2WD4WDAll2WD4WDAll
PickupsSmall663655588267315038124118122
Large42313769646741434211195104
Very large18222151908035645769111101
All pickups472738647369385045111100107
SUVsSmall372429293331182120665760
Midsize281720463136342126744857
Large191617332830301823524548
Very large**8**16**8**24
All utility vehicles271821393134302024664955
*Insufficient exposure for estimating reliable death rates

Frontal impacts accounted for 20 driver deaths per million registered passenger vehicles in multiple-vehicle crashes in 2005, compared with 14 deaths per million in side impacts and 2 deaths per million in rear impacts.

Driver deaths in multiple-vehicle crashes per
million registered passenger vehicles 1-3 years old, 2005
 Frontal impactsSide impactsRear impactsOtherTotal
Cars23202<146
Pickups2493<138
SUVs1271121
All passenger vehicles20142<138
Driver deaths in multiple-vehicle crashes per million
registered passenger vehicles 1-3 years old, 2005, by passenger vehicle sizes
 Frontal impactsSide impactsRear impactsOtherTotal
CarsMini482910894
Small30263<161
Midsize19172<139
Large21182<143
Very large1411<1127
All cars23202<146
PickupsSmall32154255
Large2393<137
Very large1441121
All pickups2493<138
SUVsSmall15102129
Midsize1171120
Large1042117
Very large<1<18<18
All utility vehicles1271121
All passenger vehicles20142<138

Frontal impacts accounted for 19 driver deaths per million registered passenger vehicles in single-vehicle crashes in 2005, compared with 8 deaths per million in side impacts and 1 death per million in rear impacts.

Driver deaths in single-vehicle crashes per million
registered passenger vehicles 1-3 years old, 2005
 Frontal impactsSide impactsRear impactsOtherTotal
Cars1681633
Pickups311321969
SUVs16511134
All passenger vehicles19811040
Driver deaths in single-vehicle crashes per million
registered passenger vehicles 1-3 years old, 2005, by passenger vehicle sizes
 Frontal impactsSide impactsRear impactsOtherTotal
CarsMini23134650
Small191311045
Midsize1691432
Large1351425
Very large121<1316
All cars1681633
PickupsSmall37921767
Large311411667
Very large331322880
All pickups311321969
SUVsSmall1741831
Midsize16511336
Large14511030
Very large16<1<1<116
All utility vehicles16511134
All passenger vehicles19811040

Rollover

A vehicle is classified as rolling over if it tips onto its side or roof at any time during the crash. The rollover may occur subsequent to a frontal or side impact with another vehicle or a fixed object. Many rollovers occur after a vehicle leaves the roadway and may lead to occupants being ejected from the vehicle, increasing the likelihood of fatality.

A total of 10,770 passenger vehicle occupants died in rollover crashes in 2005. Twenty-three percent of these did not involve any other impact.

Passenger vehicle occupant deaths in rollover crashes by impact point and vehicle type, 2005
Point of principal impactCar occupantsPickup occupantsSUV occupantsAll occupants
Num%Num%Num%Num%
Frontal1,932401,04037841303,91036
Side9331945616410141,85517
Rear1914126512544564
None7811670425917322,48423
Other9752047217557202,06519
All*4,8121002,7981002,85010010,770100
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Crashes in which a vehicle rolled over accounted for 34 percent of passenger vehicle occupant deaths in 2005 (56 percent of single-vehicle occupant crash deaths and 13 percent of multiple-vehicle occupant crash deaths).

Passenger vehicle occupant deaths by crash type, 1978-2005
YearDeaths in single-vehicle crashesDeaths in multiple-vehicle crashesDeaths in all crashes*
RolloverNo rolloverRolloverNo rolloverRolloverNo rollover
Num%Num%Num%Num%Num%Num%
19787,858488,460521,477817,093929,3502725,57373
19798,010488,542521,666916,779919,6912825,33572
19808,673499,000511,588915,6799110,2822924,71371
19818,211508,188501,588915,692919,8122923,89971
19826,974497,204511,305814,157928,2822821,37272
19836,951507,079501,256813,867928,2072820,94672
19847,116507,090501,358914,527918,4742821,61772
19856,900506,779501,361814,804928,2622821,58572
19867,954527,428481,501915,341919,4552922,76971
19878,162537,363471,629915,991919,7913023,35470
19888,562537,494471,582916,4679110,1443023,96170
19898,060527,558481,620916,361919,6802923,91971
19908,068527,382481,556915,705919,6242923,08771
19917,749527,131481,5231014,407909,2723021,53870
19927,135526,693481,4921014,137908,6272920,83071
19937,002516,821491,524914,647918,5262821,46872
19947,268526,636481,6691015,243908,9372921,87971
19957,802536,940471,7081015,463909,5103022,40370
19967,903536,891471,6911015,869909,5943022,76070
19977,711536,737471,7741016,109909,4852922,84671
19987,846546,594461,8721115,467899,7183122,06169
19998,255566,502441,8391115,4128910,0943221,91468
20008,112546,841461,8001015,356909,9123122,19769
20018,375556,786451,7471015,0309010,1223221,81668
20028,724557,114451,9521214,9348810,6763322,04867
20038,462556,936451,9401214,8288810,4023221,76468
20048,525566,764442,0221214,4398810,5473321,20367
20058,691566,707442,0781313,8288710,7703420,55266
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Since 1978 pickups and SUVs have a consistently higher percentage of rollover deaths than cars.

Passenger vehicle occupant deaths in rollover vs. no rollover crashes, 1978-2005
YearCar occupantsPickup occupantsSUV occupants
RolloverNo rolloverRolloverNo rolloverRolloverNo rollover
Num%Num%Num%Num%Num%Num%
19786,4222321,476771,989393,114615206133239
19796,4162321,102772,222413,201596306731533
19806,8622520,419752,263413,226597356538935
19816,5412519,865752,177423,059586636535835
19825,4772417,665761,935402,844605716629134
19835,3812417,419761,939422,721586096631134
19845,5252417,955762,048422,836585876629934
19855,2192317,857772,044422,848586716635334
19865,9962418,884762,371442,963567376539435
19875,9972419,118762,598453,197558246544535
19886,2272419,598762,762453,327558156250538
19895,7842319,485772,680453,336558476252638
19905,6952318,718772,713453,319559106157039
19915,4432417,295762,593443,265569346158739
19924,9442316,880772,479452,997558796351137
19934,8652217,252782,415433,196579716358137
19945,1122317,506772,393433,211571,1026170739
19955,3402317,784772,581433,392571,2576374937
19965,3232318,104772,539433,389571,4296578135
19975,1422218,009782,479423,443581,5166389937
19985,1202317,235772,537433,367571,703631,00837
19995,1742316,945772,699443,396561,901631,11837
20004,9972316,988772,532423,469582,064621,26838
20015,0282316,576772,657433,490572,138611,35739
20025,2432416,764762,730453,363552,459621,52838
20034,9162316,137772,555433,348572,612591,78141
20044,7792315,779772,572443,223562,898621,79738
20054,8122414,999762,798463,277542,850601,90940

More than three-fourths of fatal rollovers are single-vehicle crashes. Deutermann, W. 2002. Characteristics of fatal rollover crashes. Report no. DOT HS-809-438. Washington, DC: US Department of Transportation. The remaining facts will concentrate on single-vehicle rollovers.

A total of 8,691 passenger vehicle occupants died in single-vehicle rollover crashes in 2005, 2 percent more than in 2004 and 11 percent more than in 1978.

Passenger vehicle occupant deaths in single-vehicle rollover crashes, 1978-2005
YearCar driversPickup driversSUV driversAll passenger
vehicle drivers
All passenger
vehicle occupants
19783,7101,1402715,3237,858
19793,6101,2633295,3968,010
19803,9951,3094065,8958,673
19813,8261,2913645,6878,211
19823,2221,1623124,8286,974
19833,1691,1203194,7326,951
19843,2521,2263314,9647,116
19853,0761,2023604,7736,900
19863,4741,4013755,4007,954
19873,4271,5354035,5288,162
19883,6751,6564475,9258,562
19893,3091,6294635,5518,060
19903,2911,5634865,4778,068
19913,0921,5954705,2827,749
19922,8001,4924424,8487,135
19932,6641,4624944,7297,002
19942,8261,4035224,8797,268
19953,0051,5566025,2847,802
19962,9321,5147205,2947,903
19972,8171,4697545,1777,711
19982,8571,5458085,3287,846
19992,8661,6679995,6448,255
20002,7951,5261,0355,4668,112
20012,8361,6601,0545,6548,375
20022,9771,6801,2125,9678,724
20032,7551,6181,3085,7898,462
20042,7041,5671,4655,8538,525
20052,7501,7261,4516,0528,691

Single-vehicle rollover crashes accounted for 48 percent of occupant deaths in SUVs in 2005, compared with 37 percent of occupant deaths in pickups and 20 percent in cars.

Deaths in single-vehicle rollover crashes as a percent of all occupant deaths, 2005
 DriversAll occupants
Single-vehicle rollover crashesAll crashesSingle-vehicle rollover crashesAll crashes
Num%NumNum%Num
CarsMini213171,279291161,805
Small929214,3951,291216,267
Midsize861214,1041,225215,861
Large558202,816824194,233
Very large13816858236181,328
All cars2,7502013,6793,9332019,811
PickupsSmall584321,803757332,271
Large748381,974988382,617
Very large3004763439947855
All pickups1,726374,6662,270376,075
SUVsSmall2814070137839960
Midsize902491,8561,378492,793
Large2234649043950886
Very large66010125721
All utility vehicles1,451463,1212,269484,759
All passenger vehicles6,0522821,8808,6912831,322


Deaths in single-vehicle rollover crashes as a percent of all driver deaths, 2005, by 2WD and 4WD for pickups and SUVs
 2WD4WD
Single-vehicle
rollover crashes
All crashesSingle-vehicle
rollover crashes
All crashes
Num%NumNum%Num
PickupsSmall347261,31423748489
Large414341,22533445749
Very large653021723556417
All pickups846302,792814491,669
SUVsSmall1024124817940453
Midsize32250639580481,217
Large814717414245316
Very large


66010
All utility vehicles505481,061907451,996
Deaths in single-vehicle rollover crashes as a percent of all occupant deaths, 2005, by 2WD and 4WD for pickups and SUVs
 2WD4WD
Single-vehicle rollover crashesAll crashesSingle-vehicle rollover crashesAll crashes
Num%NumNum%Num
PickupsSmall460281,65629748615
Large542331,63044645987
Very large953229930455556
All pickups1,126313,6351,061492,186
SUVsSmall1494235722938603
Midsize532511,037846481,756
Large1714835826851528
Very large


125721
All utility vehicles852491,7531,355472,908

Since 1978 driver death rates for single-vehicle rollover crashes have declined across all passenger vehicle types, particularly for SUVs. Single-vehicle crashes involving rollover accounted for 23 driver deaths per million registered passenger vehicles in 2005.

Driver deaths in single-vehicle rollover crashes per million registered passenger vehicles 1-3 years old, 1978-2005
YearCar driversPickup driversSUV driversAll passenger vehicles
1978327814141
1979319015543
1980378316847
1981357613744
1982316512938
1983296212635
198427726934
198525617332
198624706232
198724686733
198826705534
198924686033
199025686034
199123665431
199220564027
199319505126
199419423725
199520494527
199624475531
199721444327
199821434328
199920494729
200018464227
200118533627
200218523728
200316483325
200415452923
200516452423

References