Fatality Facts 2020Yearly snapshot

Overview

A total of 38,824 people died in motor vehicle crashes in 2020. The U.S. Department of Transportation's most recent estimate of the annual economic cost of crashes is $242 billion. Blincoe, L. J., Miller, T. R., & Zaloshnja, E. and Lawrence, B.A. (2015). The economic and societal impact of motor vehicle crashes, 2010 (revised) (Report No. DOT HS-812-013). National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.Contributing to the death toll are alcohol, speeding, lack of seat belt use and other problematic behaviors. Death rates vary by vehicle type, driver age and sex, 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).

Posted May 2022.

Age and sex

At all ages, males had higher per capita crash death rates than females in 2020. Males ages 20 to 24 had the highest rates of crash deaths, and females ages 12 and younger had the lowest rate. 

Motor vehicle crash deaths per 100,000 people by age and sex, 2020
Age Male Female Total*
Population Deaths Rate Population Deaths Rate Population Deaths Rate
<13 26,508,833 475 1.8 25,378,314 368 1.5 51,887,147 845 1.6
13-15 6,425,429 286 4.5 6,156,770 159 2.6 12,582,199 448 3.6
16-19 8,563,213 1,580 18.5 8,221,796 705 8.6 16,785,009 2,290 13.6
20-24 11,032,846 3,014 27.3 10,561,909 1,128 10.7 21,594,755 4,144 19.2
25-29 11,875,126 3,019 25.4 11,356,117 1,053 9.3 23,231,243 4,077 17.5
30-34 11,569,253 2,722 23.5 11,269,150 911 8.1 22,838,403 3,636 15.9
35-39 10,937,588 2,289 20.9 10,890,716 810 7.4 21,828,304 3,107 14.2
40-44 10,108,280 2,033 20.1 10,199,608 688 6.7 20,307,888 2,729 13.4
45-49 9,872,904 1,887 19.1 10,097,702 649 6.4 19,970,606 2,541 12.7
50-54 10,051,788 1,989 19.8 10,343,739 687 6.6 20,395,527 2,681 13.1
55-59 10,511,928 2,245 21.4 11,091,171 705 6.4 21,603,099 2,955 13.7
60-64 9,977,506 1,982 19.9 10,823,072 660 6.1 20,800,578 2,650 12.7
65-69 8,390,351 1,446 17.2 9,483,316 532 5.6 17,873,667 1,979 11.1
70-74 6,793,189 1,053 15.5 7,882,542 495 6.3 14,675,731 1,554 10.6
75-79 4,473,684 787 17.6 5,513,149 436 7.9 9,986,833 1,226 12.3
80-84 2,749,591 541 19.7 3,715,123 338 9.1 6,464,714 882 13.6
85+ 2,414,693 571 23.6 4,243,727 334 7.9 6,658,420 908 13.6
Total* 162,256,202 28,033 17.3 167,227,921 10,690 6.4 329,484,123 38,824 11.8

From 1975 to 2020, the rate of deaths per 100,000 people declined by 80 percent for people 12 and younger (from 7.9 to 1.6), 68 percent for teenagers (from 29.4 to 9.3), 41 percent for people ages 20-34 (from 29.6 to 17.5), 25 percent for people ages 35-69 (from 17.5 to 13.1), and 53 percent for people 70 and older (from 25.9 to 12.1).

Motor vehicle crash deaths per 100,000 people by age group, 1975-2020
Year <13 years 13-19 years 20-34 years 35-69 years 70+ years
Population Number Rate Population Number Rate Population Number Rate Population Number Rate Population Number Rate
1975 45,851,304 3,643 7.9 29,795,023 8,748 29.4 50,998,098 15,074 29.6 74,764,829 13,080 17.5 14,563,945 3,775 25.9
1976 45,000,704 3,424 7.6 29,909,414 9,356 31.3 52,745,005 15,517 29.4 75,419,921 13,137 17.4 14,960,120 3,896 26.0
1977 44,337,332 3,347 7.5 29,800,313 9,633 32.3 54,497,448 17,287 31.7 76,203,083 13,460 17.7 15,401,249 3,859 25.1
1978 43,907,467 3,367 7.7 29,543,252 9,940 33.6 55,909,063 18,886 33.8 77,348,222 14,020 18.1 15,876,541 3,824 24.1
1979 43,778,959 3,171 7.2 29,077,607 9,920 34.1 57,499,197 19,675 34.2 78,311,107 14,232 18.2 16,388,617 3,772 23.0
1980 43,914,342 3,048 6.9 28,486,487 9,524 33.4 58,814,391 20,110 34.2 79,111,522 14,219 18.0 16,897,977 3,861 22.8
1981 44,049,940 2,733 6.2 27,743,947 8,315 30.0 60,563,416 19,887 32.8 79,785,591 13,950 17.5 17,322,714 3,871 22.3
1982 44,131,596 2,573 5.8 27,160,586 7,323 27.0 61,099,524 17,465 28.6 81,488,902 12,685 15.6 17,783,888 3,655 20.6
1983 44,119,297 2,518 5.7 26,737,497 6,805 25.5 61,840,154 16,853 27.3 82,861,204 12,488 15.1 18,233,751 3,734 20.5
1984 43,978,044 2,422 5.5 26,435,885 6,952 26.3 62,491,255 17,579 28.1 84,256,661 13,006 15.4 18,662,938 4,052 21.7
1985 44,260,136 2,469 5.6 26,001,247 6,737 25.9 62,961,154 17,031 27.1 85,628,410 13,126 15.3 19,072,785 4,206 22.1
1986 44,755,454 2,537 5.7 25,592,481 7,466 29.2 63,115,889 18,132 28.7 87,205,537 13,263 15.2 19,463,480 4,445 22.8
1987 45,348,247 2,654 5.9 25,209,615 7,293 28.9 63,032,298 17,676 28.0 88,808,046 14,074 15.8 19,890,817 4,555 22.9
1988 45,942,966 2,701 5.9 25,004,445 7,242 29.0 62,784,739 17,613 28.1 90,464,406 14,458 16.0 20,302,280 4,925 24.3
1989 46,690,604 2,658 5.7 24,664,300 6,688 27.1 62,494,056 16,512 26.4 92,250,762 14,651 15.9 20,719,397 4,943 23.9
1990 47,472,527 2,332 4.9 24,404,795 6,364 26.1 62,282,683 16,366 26.3 94,140,108 14,568 15.5 21,164,283 4,844 22.9
1991 48,240,747 2,257 4.7 24,066,587 5,760 23.9 62,025,750 14,949 24.1 96,068,111 13,587 14.1 21,751,897 4,843 22.3
1992 48,903,668 2,165 4.4 24,163,175 5,215 21.6 61,427,100 13,445 21.9 98,214,539 13,414 13.7 22,321,217 4,901 22.0
1993 49,335,864 2,164 4.4 24,664,091 5,421 22.0 60,582,332 13,456 22.2 100,399,648 13,748 13.7 22,800,673 5,221 22.9
1994 49,692,462 2,301 4.6 25,219,838 5,632 22.3 59,629,351 13,020 21.8 102,541,525 14,251 13.9 23,243,845 5,425 23.3
1995 49,920,484 2,201 4.4 25,764,300 5,675 22.0 58,712,407 13,330 22.7 104,712,328 15,018 14.3 23,693,757 5,509 23.3
1996 50,085,188 2,186 4.4 26,357,198 5,819 22.1 57,753,910 12,869 22.3 106,975,953 15,496 14.5 24,056,323 5,578 23.2
1997 50,364,983 2,108 4.2 26,730,812 5,730 21.4 57,046,569 12,334 21.6 109,232,426 15,860 14.5 24,408,817 5,872 24.1
1998 50,527,476 2,032 4.0 27,174,728 5,610 20.6 56,421,053 11,785 20.9 111,331,195 16,185 14.5 24,793,551 5,798 23.4
1999 50,667,139 1,997 3.9 27,518,156 5,752 20.9 55,961,401 11,840 21.2 113,451,312 16,384 14.4 25,092,805 5,657 22.5
2000 52,219,423 1,888 3.6 28,326,412 5,685 20.1 58,971,709 12,174 20.6 117,114,739 16,700 14.3 25,559,879 5,379 21.0
2001 52,341,395 1,751 3.3 28,437,711 5,594 19.7 59,465,066 12,375 20.8 119,060,436 16,934 14.2 25,797,467 5,425 21.0
2002 52,332,306 1,617 3.1 28,644,313 5,954 20.8 60,046,068 12,609 21.0 120,913,207 17,374 14.4 26,005,326 5,332 20.5
2003 52,187,602 1,643 3.1 29,028,500 5,718 19.7 60,599,350 12,365 20.4 122,772,578 17,705 14.4 26,200,946 5,363 20.5
2004 52,151,406 1,645 3.2 29,400,392 5,645 19.2 61,003,240 12,620 20.7 124,762,848 17,707 14.2 26,337,518 5,106 19.4
2005 52,149,395 1,529 2.9 29,589,854 5,300 17.9 61,180,772 13,023 21.3 126,831,714 18,491 14.6 26,658,669 5,047 18.9
2006 52,306,908 1,430 2.7 29,772,198 5,159 17.3 61,527,219 13,142 21.4 128,907,361 18,233 14.1 26,884,798 4,636 17.2
2007 52,585,809 1,269 2.4 29,775,943 4,981 16.7 61,623,322 12,531 20.3 130,500,566 17,725 13.6 27,135,517 4,631 17.1
2008 52,929,779 1,047 2.0 29,710,307 4,070 13.7 61,990,546 11,406 18.4 131,908,058 16,538 12.5 27,521,034 4,291 15.6
2009 53,753,412 1,066 2.0 29,667,279 3,480 11.7 63,105,881 9,940 15.8 132,693,708 15,340 11.6 27,786,270 3,995 14.4
2010 52,937,278 962 1.8 30,247,014 3,121 10.3 62,914,600 9,684 15.4 135,270,594 15,015 11.1 27,957,657 4,171 14.9
2011 52,921,253 908 1.7 29,917,216 3,033 10.1 63,965,818 9,633 15.1 136,306,915 14,782 10.8 28,472,279 4,071 14.3
2012 52,855,061 958 1.8 29,646,417 2,837 9.6 64,900,433 10,210 15.7 137,323,658 15,614 11.4 29,152,093 4,113 14.1
2013 52,719,631 940 1.8 29,551,607 2,543 8.6 65,681,251 9,908 15.1 138,067,096 15,298 11.1 30,040,362 4,150 13.8
2014 52,676,380 875 1.7 29,462,818 2,630 8.9 66,367,803 9,879 14.9 139,015,319 15,073 10.8 30,864,009 4,206 13.6
2015 52,764,080 946 1.8 29,356,330 2,747 9.4 66,762,737 10,608 15.9 140,231,069 16,677 11.9 31,624,778 4,427 14.0
2016 52,811,215 1,033 2.0 29,350,222 2,837 9.7 67,142,780 11,368 16.9 141,361,052 17,601 12.5 32,406,486 4,848 15.0
2017 52,726,410 949 1.8 29,387,954 2,762 9.4 67,381,469 10,932 16.2 141,662,252 17,670 12.5 33,964,043 5,037 14.8
2018 52,553,599 890 1.7 29,402,794 2,496 8.5 67,504,170 10,761 15.9 142,087,330 17,585 12.4 35,290,306 5,026 14.2
2019 52,266,740 855 1.6 29,412,828 2,394 8.1 67,647,658 10,259 15.2 142,410,359 17,558 12.3 36,592,368 5,232 14.3
2020 51,887,147 845 1.6 29,367,208 2,738 9.3 67,664,401 11,857 17.5 142,779,669 18,642 13.1 37,785,698 4,570 12.1

Seat belt use

According to a national daytime observational survey of motorists, seat belt use among front seat occupants was 90.3 percent in 2020. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. (2021). Occupant restraint use in 2020: Results from the NOPUS controlled intersection study (Report No. DOT HS 813 186). U.S. Department of Transportation.Unrestrained vehicle occupants are more likely than restrained occupants to be fatally injured in a crash, so belt use is much lower among fatally injured occupants. Among fatally injured passenger vehicle occupants age 13 and older in 2020, 44 percent of drivers and 41 percent of passengers were belted. These rates represent a 33 percent increase for drivers and a 41 percent increase for passengers compared with 1995, when only 33 percent of fatally injured drivers and 29 percent of fatally injured passengers were belted.

Seat belt use among fatally injured passenger vehicle occupants 13 and older by seating position, 1995-2020
Year Driver Passenger
Belt used Unbelted Unknown Belt used Unbelted Unknown
Number % Number % Number % Number % Number % Number %
1995 6,974 33 12,692 59 1,772 8 2,642 29 5,577 62 791 9
1996 7,368 34 12,331 57 1,919 9 2,750 30 5,706 62 807 9
1997 7,561 35 12,288 57 1,847 9 2,867 31 5,497 60 810 9
1998 7,797 36 12,033 56 1,786 8 2,814 32 5,169 59 725 8
1999 7,834 36 12,252 56 1,793 8 2,748 32 5,249 60 700 8
2000 8,199 38 11,841 54 1,754 8 2,957 33 5,212 58 744 8
2001 8,509 39 11,638 53 1,700 8 2,844 32 5,178 59 737 8
2002 8,786 39 12,028 53 1,705 8 3,151 35 5,093 57 687 8
2003 9,239 42 11,274 51 1,666 8 3,127 36 4,851 55 773 9
2004 9,456 43 11,027 50 1,450 7 3,132 37 4,768 56 622 7
2005 9,315 42 11,133 51 1,489 7 3,122 38 4,551 55 634 8
2006 9,162 42 10,874 50 1,532 7 2,964 38 4,250 54 678 9
2007 8,915 43 10,070 49 1,537 7 2,902 38 4,007 53 681 9
2008 7,794 43 9,160 50 1,301 7 2,536 39 3,495 54 473 7
2009 7,421 44 8,199 49 1,207 7 2,366 40 3,031 52 449 8
2010 7,307 46 7,497 47 1,215 8 2,285 41 2,872 51 457 8
2011 7,047 45 7,356 47 1,147 7 2,055 40 2,650 52 432 8
2012 7,234 45 7,505 47 1,166 7 2,158 41 2,665 50 461 9
2013 7,324 47 6,988 45 1,261 8 2,166 43 2,439 48 471 9
2014 7,410 48 6,906 45 1,170 8 2,182 44 2,309 46 477 10
2015 8,026 48 7,289 44 1,305 8 2,344 44 2,473 46 557 10
2016 8,486 48 7,721 44 1,425 8 2,442 44 2,562 46 514 9
2017 8,670 49 7,603 43 1,466 8 2,463 46 2,339 44 563 10
2018 8,435 49 7,399 43 1,418 8 2,272 45 2,320 45 507 10
2019 8,357 50 7,108 42 1,404 8 2,227 45 2,261 45 513 10
2020 8,072 44 8,351 46 1,802 10 2,105 41 2,377 47 596 12

Speeding

In 2020, speeding was a factor in 29 percent of motor vehicle crash deaths. Speeding has been a factor in more than a quarter of crash deaths over the past decade. Speeding is defined to include crashes in which the driver was issued a traffic citation for speeding or in which driver-related factors included driving too fast for conditions, racing or exceeding the posted speed limit.

Motor vehicle crash deaths involving speeding as a contributing factor, 2011-2020
Speeding-related Not speeding-related Total
Number % Number % Number
2011 10,001 31 22,478 69 32,479
2012 10,329 31 23,453 69 33,782
2013 9,696 29 23,198 71 32,894
2014 9,283 28 23,461 72 32,744
2015 9,723 27 25,762 73 35,485
2016 10,291 27 27,515 73 37,806
2017 9,947 27 27,526 73 37,473
2018 9,579 26 27,256 74 36,835
2019 9,592 26 26,763 74 36,355
2020 11,258 29 27,566 71 38,824

In 2020, the percentage of crash deaths involving speeding was higher on minor roads (33 percent) than on interstates and freeways (30 percent) or on other major roads (27 percent).

Crash deaths involving speeding as a contributing factor by road type, 2020
Speeding-related Not speeding-related Total
Number % Number % Number
Interstates and freeways 1,938 30 4,537 70 6,475
Other major roads 5,236 27 14,384 73 19,620
Minor roads 3,889 33 7,937 67 11,826
All road types* 11,258 29 27,566 71 38,824

Of the 11,258 speeding-related fatalities that occurred in 2020, about half (53 percent) occurred on roads with speed limits lower than 55 mph.

Motor vehicle crash deaths involving speeding as a contributing factor by speed limit, 2020
Speeding-related Not speeding-related Total
Number % Number % Number %
≤35 mph 2,911 26 5,337 19 8,248 21
40-50 mph 3,095 27 7,531 27 10,626 27
55+ mph 4,798 43 13,279 48 18,077 47
Total* 11,258 100 27,566 100 38,824 100

Distraction

A total of 2,974 of the 53,890 of drivers in fatal crashes (or 6 percent) that occurred in 2020 were coded as distracted. Of these, the most common distraction was “generally distracted or lost in thought (daydreaming)” at 64 percent of distracted drivers. These figures are likely underestimates given it often is impossible to verify a distraction was present at the time of a crash.

Distracted drivers in fatal crashes during 2020, by distraction type
Distraction type Number %
Generally distracted or "lost in thought" (daydreaming) 1,915 64
Cellphone use (talking, listening, dialing, texting) 356 12
Outside person, object or event, such as rubbernecking 240 8
Other distraction, not specified 117 4
Other occupants (talking with or looking at other people in car) 135 5
Using or reaching for device brought into vehicle, such as navigational device, headphones 90 3
Eating or drinking 35 1
Adjusting audio or climate controls 37 1
Using other device/controls integral to vehicle, such as adjusting rear view mirrors, seats, or using OEM navigation system 40 1
Moving object in vehicle, such as pet or insect 14 <1
Smoking related (includes smoking, lighting up, putting ashes in ashtray) 4 <1
All distracted drivers 2,974 100

When they died

In 2020, April had the fewest crash deaths and August had the most.

Motor vehicle crash deaths by month, 2020
Month Deaths %
January 2,666 7
February 2,674 7
March 2,553 7
April 2,320 6
May 3,096 8
June 3,725 10
July 3,789 10
August 3,802 10
September 3,724 10
October 3,793 10
November 3,445 9
December 3,237 8
Total 38,824 100

In 2020, nearly half of crash deaths occurred on Friday, Saturday or Sunday.

Motor vehicle crash deaths by day of week, 2020
Day of week Deaths %
Sunday 6,114 16
Monday 4,838 12
Tuesday 4,858 13
Wednesday 5,055 13
Thursday 5,221 13
Friday 6,026 16
Saturday 6,712 17
Total 38,824 100

In 2020, about one out of every three crash deaths occurred between 3 p.m. and 9 p.m.

Motor vehicle crash deaths by time of day, 2020
Time of day Deaths %
Midnight - 3 a.m. 4,267 11
3 a.m. - 6 a.m. 3,158 8
6 a.m. - 9 a.m. 3,454 9
9 a.m. - noon 3,413 9
Noon - 3 p.m. 4,813 12
3 p.m. - 6 p.m. 6,084 16
6 p.m. - 9 p.m. 7,013 18
9 p.m. - midnight 6,291 16
Total* 38,824 100
Independence Day (July 4) typically is one of the days of the year with the most motor vehicle crash deaths. Weast, R. (2018). Temporal factors in motor-vehicle crashes: Ten years later. Journal of Safety Research, 65, 125-131.
Days of year with most motor vehicle crash deaths, 2016-2020
Date Total deaths, 2016-2020 Yearly average
July 4 668 134
September 3 638 128
July 14 635 127
September 16 632 126
June 30 630 126
May 26 626 125