Fatality Facts 2018Yearly snapshot

Overview

A total of 36,560 people died in motor vehicle crashes in 2018. The U.S. Department of Transportation's most recent estimate of the annual economic cost of crashes is $242 billion dollars. 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. 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).

Posted December 2019.

Age and gender

At all ages, males had higher per capita crash death rates than females in 2018. Males ages 85 and older and 20-24 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 gender, 2018
Age Male Female Total*
Population Deaths Rate Population Deaths Rate Population Deaths Rate
<13 26,859,496 456 1.7 25,701,990 424 1.6 52,561,486 880 1.7
13-15 6,359,162 196 3.1 6,106,014 120 2.0 12,465,176 316 2.5
16-19 8,663,282 1,371 15.8 8,292,721 788 9.5 16,956,003 2,160 12.7
20-24 11,201,547 2,902 25.9 10,672,032 1,024 9.6 21,873,579 3,927 18.0
25-29 12,018,838 2,741 22.8 11,542,918 943 8.2 23,561,756 3,688 15.7
30-34 11,191,871 2,275 20.3 10,944,147 769 7.0 22,136,018 3,045 13.8
35-39 10,790,190 1,958 18.1 10,773,397 732 6.8 21,563,587 2,690 12.5
40-44 9,797,410 1,686 17.2 9,916,891 613 6.2 19,714,301 2,299 11.7
45-49 10,263,995 1,867 18.2 10,483,140 680 6.5 20,747,135 2,548 12.3
50-54 10,277,207 1,946 18.9 10,607,357 641 6.0 20,884,564 2,588 12.4
55-59 10,669,327 2,121 19.9 11,271,658 767 6.8 21,940,985 2,889 13.2
60-64 9,729,536 1,802 18.5 10,602,115 688 6.5 20,331,651 2,491 12.3
65-69 8,034,813 1,351 16.8 9,052,080 583 6.4 17,086,893 1,934 11.3
70-74 6,211,272 1,048 16.9 7,194,151 531 7.4 13,405,423 1,579 11.8
75-79 4,144,674 819 19.8 5,122,392 485 9.5 9,267,066 1,304 14.1
80-84 2,590,366 605 23.4 3,536,942 397 11.2 6,127,308 1,002 16.4
85+ 2,325,693 624 26.8 4,218,810 464 11.0 6,544,503 1,088 16.6
Total* 161,128,679 25,841 16.0 166,038,755 10,676 6.4 327,167,434 36,560 11.2

From 1975 to 2018, the rate of deaths per 100,000 people declined by 78 percent for people 12 and younger (from 7.9 to 1.7), 71 percent for teenagers (from 29.4 to 8.4), 47 percent for people ages 20-34 (from 29.6 to 15.8), 30 percent for people ages 35-69 (from 17.5 to 12.3), and 46 percent for people 70 and older (from 25.9 to 14.1).

Motor vehicle crash deaths per 100,000 people by age group, 1975-2018
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 52,943,218 962 1.8 30,324,338 3,121 10.3 62,649,947 9,684 15.5 134,995,314 15,015 11.1 27,832,721 4,171 15.0
2011 52,950,108 908 1.7 29,895,041 3,033 10.1 63,944,330 9,633 15.1 136,282,085 14,782 10.8 28,520,353 4,071 14.3
2012 52,872,572 958 1.8 29,632,228 2,837 9.6 64,892,524 10,210 15.7 137,348,713 15,614 11.4 29,168,003 4,113 14.1
2013 52,723,720 940 1.8 29,524,367 2,543 8.6 65,640,025 9,908 15.1 138,145,370 15,298 11.1 30,095,357 4,150 13.8
2014 52,666,129 875 1.7 29,469,473 2,630 8.9 66,428,678 9,879 14.9 139,374,831 15,073 10.8 30,917,945 4,206 13.6
2015 52,747,095 946 1.8 29,378,595 2,747 9.4 66,876,515 10,608 15.9 140,723,231 16,677 11.9 31,693,384 4,427 14.0
2016 52,767,670 1,033 2.0 29,359,997 2,837 9.7 67,156,940 11,368 16.9 141,678,551 17,601 12.4 32,442,777 4,848 14.9
2017 52,738,932 949 1.8 29,414,280 2,762 9.4 67,461,307 10,932 16.2 142,082,361 17,670 12.4 34,022,298 5,037 14.8
2018 52,561,486 880 1.7 29,421,179 2,476 8.4 67,571,353 10,660 15.8 142,269,116 17,439 12.3 35,344,300 4,973 14.1

Seat belt use

According to a national daytime observational survey of motorists, seat belt use among front seat occupants was 89.6 percent in 2018. Li, R., & Pickrell, T. M. (2019, January). Seat belt use in 2018—Overall results. (Traffic Safety Facts Research Note. Report No. DOT HS 812 662). Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.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 2018, 49 percent of drivers and 45 percent of passengers were belted. These rates represent a 48 percent increase and a 55 percent increase, respectively, 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, 1995-2018
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 8,371 49 7,364 43 1,418 8 2,255 45 2,284 45 498 10

Speeding

In 2018, speeding was a factor in 26 percent of motor vehicle crash deaths. Speeding has been a factor in more than a quarter of crash deaths since 2009. 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, 2009-2018
Speeding-related Not speeding-related Total
Number % Number % Number
2009 10,664 31 23,219 69 33,883
2010 10,508 32 22,491 68 32,999
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 9,378 26 27,182 74 36,560

In 2018, the percentage of crash deaths involving speeding was higher on minor roads (30 percent) than on interstates and freeways (28 percent) or on other major roads (23 percent).

Crash deaths involving speeding as a contributing factor by road type, 2018
Speeding-related Not speeding-related Total
Number % Number % Number
Interstates and freeways 1,353 28 3,477 72 4,830
Other major roads 4,391 23 14,836 77 19,227
Minor roads 3,234 30 7,424 70 10,658
All road types* 9,378 26 27,182 74 36,560

Of the 9,378 speeding-related fatalities that occurred in 2018, about half (52 percent) occurred on roads with speed limits lower than 55 mph.

Motor vehicle crash deaths involving speeding as a contributing factor by speed limit, 2018
Speeding-related Not speeding-related Total
Number % Number % Number %
≤35 mph 2,322 25 5,152 19 7,474 20
40-50 mph 2,537 27 7,331 27 9,868 27
55+ mph 4,477 48 14,424 53 18,901 52
Total* 9,378 100 27,182 100 36,560 100

Distraction

A total of 2,690 of 51,490 or 5 percent of drivers in fatal crashes that occurred in 2018 were distracted. Of these, the most common distraction was “generally distracted or lost in thought (daydreaming)” at 61 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 2018, by distraction type
Distraction type Number %
Generally distracted or "lost in thought" (daydreaming) 1,654 61
Cell phone use (talking, listening, dialing, texting) 354 13
Outside person, object or event, such as rubbernecking 187 7
Other distraction, not specified 153 6
Other occupants (talking with or looking at other people in car) 126 5
Using or reaching for device brought into vehicle, such as navigational device, headphones 102 4
Eating or drinking 45 2
Using other device/controls integral to vehicle, such as adjusting rear view mirrors, seats, or using OEM navigation system 33 1
Adjusting audio or climate controls 29 1
Moving object in vehicle, such as pet or insect 12 <1
Smoking related (includes smoking, lighting up, putting ashes in ashtray) 9 <1
All distracted drivers 2,690 100

When they died

In 2018, February had the fewest crash deaths and October had the most.

Motor vehicle crash deaths by month, 2018
Month Deaths %
January 2,828 8
February 2,511 7
March 2,850 8
April 2,788 8
May 3,206 9
June 3,296 9
July 3,326 9
August 3,254 9
September 3,276 9
October 3,368 9
November 2,965 8
December 2,892 8
Total 36,560 100

In 2018, nearly half of crash deaths occurred on Friday, Saturday or Sunday.

Motor vehicle crash deaths by day of week, 2018
Day of week Deaths %
Sunday 5,560 15
Monday 4,918 13
Tuesday 4,651 13
Wednesday 4,622 13
Thursday 4,847 13
Friday 5,661 15
Saturday 6,301 17
Total 36,560 100

In 2018, about a third of crash deaths occurred between 3 p.m. and 9 p.m.

Motor vehicle crash deaths by time of day, 2018
Time of day Deaths %
Midnight - 3 a.m. 4,079 11
3 a.m. - 6 a.m. 2,995 8
6 a.m. - 9 a.m. 3,681 10
9 a.m. - noon 3,516 10
Noon - 3 p.m. 4,715 13
3 p.m. - 6 p.m. 5,668 16
6 p.m. - 9 p.m. 6,204 17
9 p.m. - midnight 5,451 15
Total* 36,560 100

During 2014-2018, Independence Day had the highest number of traffic fatalities.

Days of year with most motor vehicle crash deaths, 2014-2018
Date Total deaths, 2014-2018 Yearly average
July 4 660 132
September 30 600 120
August 2 596 119
June 7 590 118
September 16 589 118
October 3 589 118