Are you curious about how common car accidents really are? Always wondered about the most common causes of crashes, or just how much the rate of accidents varies from state to state or city to city? Read on to learn more in Insurify’s comprehensive guide to car accidents: how they happen, how often they happen, and where.

If learning more about fender benders inspires you to find a better car insurance policy––you’re in luck! Insurify users can compare and purchase dozens of car and home insurance quotes from the nation’s leading insurers and save up to $996 yearly.

How common are car accidents?

  • On average, there are 6 million car accidents in the U.S. every year. That’s roughly 16,438 per day. (TheWanderingRV)
  • Over 37,000 Americans die in automobile crashes annually. Over 90 Americans die in accidents each day. (TheWanderingRV)
  • An additional three million Americans are disabled or otherwise injured due to car accidents yearly. (The WanderingRV)
  • The most typical places for car accidents to occur include parking lots, rural highways, stop signs, and two-lane roads. Car accidents are also more likely to occur during rush hour and in intersections. (The WanderingRV)

Car Accident Statistics in the United States

You may be surprised by how much the rate of car accidents varies from state to state and city to city. While some states have embraced smart urban planning and technologies that help to keep both drivers and pedestrians safe, others have lagged behind and see greater rates of crashes as a result.

Car Accident Statistics By State

  • Alaska had the highest percentage of deaths involving SUV and pickup occupants at 48% and a proportionally low percentage of deaths involving car occupants at 24%. (IIHS)
  • Vermont had the highest percentage of deaths involving car occupants at 45% and a relatively low percentage of deaths involving SUV and pickup occupants at 21%. (IIHS)
  • Hawaii reported relatively low proportions of fatalities for both cars at 19% and SUVs and pickups at 23%, but a relatively high percentage of pedestrian deaths at 33%. (IIHS)
  • Delaware, Florida and New York sadly tied for the highest percentage of crash deaths involving bicyclists at 5%, and the District of Columbia had the highest percentage involving pedestrians at 39%. (IIHS)
  • Maine had the highest percentage of deaths in single-vehicle crashes at 68%. (IIHS)

The graphic below uses proprietary Insurify data to compare average monthly car insurance costs in ten different U.S. states.

Source: Insurify’s analysis of over four million car insurance applications.

  • Nebraska had the highest percentage of deaths in multiple-vehicle crashes at 57%. (IIHS)
  • North Dakota had the highest estimated percentage of fatally injured drivers with BACs of 0.08% or higher at 41%, while West Virginia and Utah had the lowest at 14%. (IIHS)
  • The state with the highest overall seat belt use for front-seat occupants was Hawaii at 97%, while the lowest was New Hampshire at 71% (New Hampshire traffic laws do not mandate seatbelt usage). (IIHS)
  • Delaware had the highest restraint use percentage among fatally injured occupants at 61%. (IIHS)
  • Massachusetts had the lowest restraint use among fatally injured occupants at just 30%. (IIHS)
  • The states with the highest percentage of crash deaths on rural roads were Vermont at 89%, Montana (86%), and Wyoming (84%). (IIHS)
  • The states with the lowest percentage were Rhode Island at four percent, Massachusetts at seven percent, and New Jersey at 11%. 
  • The District of Columbia had zero crash deaths in rural areas because its entirety is coded as an urban area. (IIHS)
  • The top five states most dangerous and deadly for pedestrians were were Florida, Alabama, New Mexico, Mississippi and Delaware. (Smart Growth America)
  • In 2017, the seven states (Alaska, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, along with Washington D.C.) that legalized recreational use of marijuana between 2012 and 2016 reported a collective 16.4% increase in pedestrian fatalities for the first six months of 2017 versus the first six months of 2016, whereas all other states reported a collective 5.8% decrease in pedestrian fatalities. (IIHS)

Car Accident Statistics By City

  • Analysis of crashes that occurred between 2010 and 2019 from NHTSA’s Fatal Analysis Reporting System shows that three of the top five metropolitan statistical areas most dangerous and deadly for pedestrians were in Florida—Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, ranking first, Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, ranking fourth and Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond ranking fifth. (Smart Growth America)
  • Ranking second and third were Bakersfield, California and Memphis, Tennessee-Missouri-Arkansas. The rankings were based on the organization’s Pedestrian Danger Index which factored in the number of pedestrians struck and killed by drivers based on population and people who walk in the area. (Smart Growth America)

The graphic below uses proprietary Insurify data to compare the average cost of car insurance for drivers with clean records and drivers with prior offenses in eleven major U.S. cities.

Source: Insurify’s analysis of over four million car insurance applications.

Nationwide Statistics on Car Accidents in the United States

  • Nationwide, 53% of motor vehicle crash deaths in 2019 occurred in single-vehicle crashes. (IIHS)
  • Nationwide, 45% of motor vehicle crash deaths in 2019 occurred in rural areas. (NHTSA)
  • More than 38,000 people die every year in crashes on U.S. roadways. The U.S. traffic fatality rate is 12.4 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants. (ASIRT)
  • An additional 4.4 million people are injured seriously enough to require medical attention. (ASIRT)
  • Road crashes are the leading cause of death in the U.S. for people aged 1-54. (ASIRT)
  • The U.S. suffers the most road crash deaths of any high-income country, about 50% higher than similar countries in Western Europe, Canada, Australia and Japan. (ASIRT)

The graphic below uses proprietary Insurify data to compare the average cost of car insurance for drivers with clean records and drivers with prior offenses from 2019 to 2021.

Source: Insurify’s analysis of over four million car insurance applications.

The Cost of Car Accidents in the United States

  • The economic and societal impact of road crashes costs U.S. citizens $871 billion. (NHTSA)
  • Road crashes cost the U.S. more than $380 million in direct medical costs. (NHTSA)
  • In 2010, the economic cost of motor vehicle crashes to the United States totaled $242 billion, equaling 1.6% of the 2010 real U.S. Gross Domestic Product. (NHTSA)

Safety Measures to Prevent Accidents in the United States

  • By 2020, 42 states had maximum speed limits of 70 mph or higher. (IIHS)
  • On some portions of their roads, 22 states had maximum speed limits of 70 mph, and 11 states had maximum speed limits of 75 mph. (IIHS)
  • Eight states had 80 mph limits, and drivers in Texas can legally drive 85 mph on one road. (IIHS)
  • Texting while driving is banned for all drivers in 48 states and the District of Columbia. (III)
    • Laws for novice drivers are even more restrictive in their breadth: the use of all cellphones by novice drivers is restricted in 37 states and the District of Columbia, and drivers age 21 and younger are banned from texting in Missouri. (III)
  • An earlier study found that texting bans were not shown to reduce crash rates, according to a Highway Loss Data Institute 2010 study of collision claims patterns in California, Louisiana, Minnesota and Washington before and after texting bans went into effect. Collisions went up slightly in all the above states, except for Washington. 
  • A positive change in road safety was noted in a more recent study using data from hospital emergency departments in 16 states between 2007 and 2014 that found that states with texting bans had an average 4 percent reduction in emergency department visits after motor vehicle crashes, or about 1,600 visits per year. (American Journal of Public Health).

Worldwide Statistics on Car Accidents

Car accidents aren’t just a problem in the states. The negative impact of car crashes impacts societies and economies across the globe.

  • Every year, roughly 1.3 million people die in car accidents worldwide, an average of 3,287 deaths per day. (SaferAmerica)
  • Death rates from road traffic accidents are three times higher in low-income countries than in high-income countries. (WHO)
  • More than 90% of all road fatalities occur in low- and middle-income countries, even though these countries have approximately 60% of the world’s vehicles. (WHO)
  • Road crashes are the single greatest annual cause of death of healthy U.S. citizens traveling abroad (CDC)
  • In Canada, economic losses caused by traffic collision-related health care costs and lost productivity are at least $10 billion annually, representing about 1% of Canada’s annual Gross Domestic Product. (Government of Canada) 

Car Accident Statistics by Demographic

You may have heard cliches about teens or senior citizens not always making the soundest choices behind the wheel. But are those stereotypes earned?

Car Accidents Involving Teens and Young Drivers

  • Crash risk is highest during the first year that drivers are licensed. (CDC)
  • Road traffic injuries are the leading cause of death among young people aged 5-29. Young adults aged 15-44 account for more than half of all road deaths. (WHO)
  • In 2017 the lives of an estimated 325 children under the age of five were saved by restraints, demonstrating the importance of such child safety measures. (NHTSA)
  • Teen girls are twice as likely as teen boys to use cell phones and other electronic devices while driving. (AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety)
  • Teens are more likely than older drivers to speed and allow shorter following distances. (Texas A&M Transportation Institute)
  • Drivers ages 15-20 had the highest representation in speed-related fatal crashes, at 32% and 22%, compared to any other age group in 2016. (NHTSA)
  • Many teenagers do not consider driving at 5 to 10 mph above the speed limit to be dangerous. (Texas A&M Transportation Institute)
  • The number of fatalities per year caused when a vehicle backs up onto a person is estimated to be 267.31% of these ‘backover’ deaths are children under 5 years of age. (Safe Kids Worldwide)
  • Children under the age of 5 are at the highest risk for serious injury or death from backover incidents. (KidsAndCars.org)
  • Drivers ages 16-24 have the lowest rate of seat belt use. (Safe Ride 4 Kids)
  • One in three teens who text say they have done so while driving. (NHTSA)
  • Dialing a phone number while driving increases a teen’s risk of crashing by six times. (NHTSA)
  • Each day, 11 teens die in crashes caused by texting and driving. (TeenSafe, 2018)
  • 82% of American teens have a cell phone. 52% of these teens note that they talk on the phone while driving and 32% text on the road. (TeenSafe, 2018)
  • The rate of drunk driving fatalities for under-21 drivers per 100,000 people has declined 29% over the past decade. (NHTSA)
  • Teen drivers aged 16 to 19 are three times more likely to be involved in car crashes than older drivers. Roughly 12.2% of motor vehicle crashes are caused by teenage drivers, while just 7.5% were caused by drivers over 65. (III)

Car Accidents Involving Middle-Aged and Senior Drivers

  • 40% of pedestrian deaths among people 70 and older in 2018 occurred at intersections, compared with 22% for those younger than 70. (IIHS)
  • Most bicyclist deaths in 2018, at 87% were those ages 20 and older. (IIHS)
  • Adults aged 18-34 are less likely to wear seat belts than those 35 or older. (Virtual Drive)

The graphic below uses proprietary Insurify data to compare the average monthly cost of car insurance when segmented by driver age.

Source: Insurify’s analysis of over four million car insurance applications.

Car Accidents and Gender

  • Male and younger drivers ages 19-39 were significantly more likely to engage in aggressive behaviors. (AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety)
  • Boys are more likely to suffer fatal MVC injuries than girls; 61% of fatalities are among boys and 39% among girls. (NHTSA)
  • Every year since 1975, many more male than female bicyclists have been killed in crashes with motor vehicles. (IIHS)
  • The decline in traffic deaths since 1975 among female bicyclists at 38% was triple the decline among male bicyclists at 12%. (IIHS)
  • In 2018, 69% of pedestrians killed were male. (IIHS)
  • Male drivers were involved in 34% of fatal crashes in 2016, while female drivers were involved in 12%. (USDOT)
  • In 2018, 71% of all motor vehicle crash deaths were males. Males accounted for 71% of passenger vehicle driver deaths, 48% of passenger vehicle passenger deaths, 97% of large truck driver deaths, 71% of large truck passenger deaths, 69% of pedestrian deaths, 86% of bicyclist deaths, and 91% of motorcyclist deaths. (IIHS)
  • Men are more likely than women to engage in distracting behavior; more than twice as many men as women reported watching a video while driving. (Consumer Reports)
  • Men are nearly twice as likely as women to have been intoxicated behind the wheel or to be involved in fatal motor vehicle traffic accidents. (CDC)
  • Men, at 17%, are three times as likely as women, at 5%, to say they have fallen asleep at the wheel. (AA-Populus Motoring Panel)
  • Men are 10% less likely to wear seat belts than women. (Virtual Drive)

The graphic below uses proprietary Insurify data to break down the average monthly cost of car insurance by gender.

Source: Insurify’s analysis of over four million car insurance applications.

Most Common Causes of Car Accidents

What are the most common reasons that lead to a crash? As you might be able to guess, drunk driving, speeding, and distracted driving all play a major role in causing many car accidents, but you might be surprised by the unexpected impact that driving while drowsy or in poor weather can have.

The graphic below uses proprietary Insurify data to compare the average monthly cost of car insurance for drivers with a clean record as opposed to those with a number of different driving violations.

Source: Insurify’s analysis of over four million car insurance applications.

Drunk Driving and Car Accidents

  • In 2018, 33 percent of fatal pedestrian crashes involved a pedestrian with blood-alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 grams per deciliter or higher, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA.
  • Alcohol-impaired driving accounts for more than 30% of all driving fatalities yearly. (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism)
  • Drunk driving costs the United States $199 billion every year (MADD)
  • Every day in America, another 30 people die as a result of drunk driving crashes. That’s one person every 48 minutes. (NHTSA)
  • Every day, roughly 800 people are injured in a drunk driving crash. (NHTSA)
  • About one in three traffic deaths in the United States involve a driver with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher. (CDC)
  • In 2018, 9% of car drivers ages 70 and older had blood alcohol concentrations (BACs) of 0.08% or more, compared with 19% for ages 60-69 and 35% for drivers ages 16-59. (IIHS)
  • 42% of motorcyclists involved in single-vehicle crashes had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of at least 0.08%, which constitutes legal intoxication in most states. (IIHS)
  • In 2018, 3% of fatally injured large truck drivers had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at or above 0.08%, down from 17% in 1982.
  • For comparison, 29% of fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers had a BAC at or above 0.08%, down from 51% in 1982. (IIHS)
  • Among bicyclists ages 16 and older who were killed in 2018, 20% had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at or above 0.08%. (IIHS)
  • After alcohol, marijuana is the drug most often linked to drugged driving. (National Institute on Drug Abuse)
  • On average, three in five people will be involved in a crash due to impaired driving in their lifetime. (National Center for Statistics and Analysis)
  • No distraction rivaled the risk involved with driving while impaired by drugs or under the influence of alcohol, which multiplied crash rates by 36 times. (Virginia Tech Transportation Institute)
  • In 2017, among people ages 16 or older, 12.8 million drove after using illicit drugs. (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration)
  • The number of alcohol-positive drivers killed in crashes who also tested positive for drugs increased by 16% from 2006 to 2016. (Governors Highway Safety Association )
  • Among drug-positive drivers killed in crashes in 2016, 4% tested positive for both marijuana and opioids, 16% for opioids only, 38% for marijuana only, and 42% for other drugs. (Governors Highway Safety Association)
  • In traffic crashes that involve the use of drugs or alcohol, injuries occur in 90% of motorcycle crashes compared with 33% of automobile crashes.
  • In the United States, 29% of motorcyclists killed in crashes had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or more, meaning that they were legally intoxicated at the time. (Motorcycle Safety Foundation)
    • An additional 8% had a BAC above zero but less than 0.08%. (Motorcycle Safety Foundation)

Speeding-related Car Accidents

  • Speeding is at the top of the list of related factors for drivers involved in fatal crashes, and 9,262 people were fatally injured in accidents caused by motor vehicle speeding in 2014 alone. (NHTSA)
  • In 2018, 8,596 drivers who were involved in fatal crashes, almost 17%, were speeding. (NHTSA)
  • The rising of state speed limits over the 25-year-period from 1993 to 2017 have cost nearly 37,000 lives, including more than 1,900 in 2017 alone. (IIHS)
  • Speed-related crashes cost Americans an average of $40.4 billion each year. (III)
  • For over two decades, speeding has been involved in approximately one-third of all motor vehicle fatalities. (NHTSA)
  • Speeding killed 10,111 people in the U.S. alone in 2016, accounting for more than a quarter (27%) of all traffic fatalities. (NHTSA)
  • Speed is a factor in 31% of U.S. teen driver fatalities. (NHTSA)
  • 42% of surveyed drivers said they don’t consider going 10 mph over the speed limit to be speeding. Another 10% said they don’t think a 20-mph increase is speeding. (Everquote)
  • National data shows that even a 10-mph speed increase ups the risk of a crash by 9.1%. (Fortune)
  • 48% of motorcyclists involved in single-vehicle crashes were speeding. (IIHS)
  • In 2017, there were 203 fatal crashes in work zones in which speeding was found to be a factor. (FHWA)

Traffic Violations and Car Accidents

  • More than 900 people a year die and nearly 2,000 are injured as a result of vehicles running red lights. (Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association)
  • Roughly half of the deaths resulting from red-light running each year are pedestrians and occupants of other vehicles who are hit. (Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association)
  • One study found that 18% of licensed American drivers would fail the knowledge test for a learner’s permit if they were to retake it. (National General Insurance)
  • Certain driver performance errors like committing a right-of-way error, sudden or improper braking or stopping, failure to stop at a stop sign, and being unfamiliar with a vehicle or roadway increased the risk of crashing by hundreds of times. (Virginia Tech Transportation Institute)

Distracted Driving

  • 16% of traffic accidents by motorists are caused by distractions like texting, messing with the radio or a GPS, or eating while driving. (NHTSA)
  • In 2018, 2,841 people were killed in crashes involving distractions. (NHTSA)
    • There were 2,648 distraction-affected fatal crashes, accounting for 8 percent of all fatal crashes in the nation. (NHTSA)
  • Distractions are the number three cause of pedestrian fatalities, mainly distraction electronic devices. (Active Transportation Alliance)
  • Rear-end crashes are the most frequently occurring type of collision, accounting for approximately 29% of all crashes. (NHTSA)
  • Tailgating is a contributing factor in more than one-third of all crashes on the road. (TeenSafe)
  • Driver-related factors (including, error, impairment, fatigue, and distraction) were present in almost 90% of crashes. (Virginia Tech Transportation Institute)
  • Driving while crying or visibly angry increased the risk of crashing by tenfold. (Virginia Tech Transportation Institute)
  • One study found that the average parent driver took his or her eyes off the road for three minutes and 22 seconds during a 16-minute trip. (Monash University)
  • Over 80% of drivers admit to dangerous behavior while driving, such as changing clothes, steering with a foot, painting nails, or even shaving. (TeenSafe)
  • The most frequent cause of distracted driving crashes, at 62% is being lost in thought or letting your mind wander. (TeenSafe)
  • 20% of drivers admit they’ve styled their hair from behind the wheel. (TeenSafe)
  • One survey of drivers in six countries found that 35% admitted to changing their clothes while driving, 13% admitted to applying makeup while driving, and 15% admitted to engaging in sexual activity while driving. (WIRED)

Phones, Texting, and Driving

  • According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, as of December 2020, talking on a hand-held cellphone while driving is banned in 24 states and the District of Columbia.
  • In 2019, 41% of drivers were distracted by their phones while driving during the daytime. (Cambridge Mobile Telematics) 
  • One in four drivers used a cell phone just before they were involved in a crash. (Chicago Tribune)
  • 96% of surveyed drivers consider themselves to be a safe driver, but 56% admit to using the phone while driving. (Everquote)
  • Dialing a phone is one of the most dangerous distractions drivers can have, increasing a driver’s chance of crashing by 12 times. (Virginia Tech Transportation Institute)
  • Reading or writing increases the risk of crashing by 10 times. (Virginia Tech Transportation Institute)
  • Using a hands-free electronic device is four times more distracting than talking to a passenger. (Driver’s Alert)
  • One out of 3 drivers text while driving. (Driver Knowledge)
  • Texting while driving increases the risk of a driver crashing by 23 times. (NHTSA)
  • 47 of the 50 US states ban texting while driving, and 15 states ban drivers from hand-held phone use. (FCC)
  • Texting increases your chances of rear-ending someone by a factor of 7. (AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety)
  • The maximum amount of time that a driver can safely divert his or her attention from the road is two seconds, according to TeenSafe. It takes a driver an average of five seconds to send a text message. 
  • 61% of drivers say texting is only acceptable if they have access a hands-free, voice-activated option; 34% say it is acceptable if it’s an emergency; 24% say that texting while driving is never acceptable. (Consumer Reports)

Drowsy Driving

  • 35% of U.S. drivers report sleeping less than the recommended seven hours daily. (CDC)
  • It is estimated that in 2017, 91,000 police-reported crashes involved drowsy drivers. (NHTSA)
    • These crashes led to an estimated 50,000 people being injured and nearly 800 deaths. 
  • Drivers who decide to drive while sleep-deprived are responsible for over 6,400 US deaths annually. (National Sleep Foundation)
  • Being awake for 18 hours straight can impair driving skills as much as a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.05%. (National Sleep Foundation)
  • Drivers missing 2-3 hours of sleep in 24 hours more than quadrupled their risk of a crash when compared with drivers getting the recommended seven hours of sleep. (AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety)
  • 5% of all crashes involve drowsy drivers, based on the portion of time the drivers’ eyes were closed in the minutes before a crash. The portion grows to 10.8% in more severe crashes. (AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety)
  • From 2001-2003, truck driver fatigue was associated with 13% of serious truck crashes. (NHTSA)

Aggressive Driving

  • Over 50% of the five million yearly car crashes in the United States are caused by aggressive drivers, with speeding being the most prominent factor. (TeenSafe, 2018)
  • 66% of all traffic fatalities are caused by aggressive driving. (SafeMotorist.com, 2019)
  • 37% of aggressive driving incidents involve one or more firearms. (SafeMotorist.com, 2019)
  • Half of the drivers on the receiving end of aggressive behavior like horn honking, a rude gesture, or tailgating admit to responding with aggressive behavior themselves. (SafeMotorist.com, 2019)
  • 2 percent of drivers admit to attempting to run an aggressor off the road at least once. (SafeMotorist.com, 2019)
  • In 2014, 0.7% of drivers admitted to frequently blocking other vehicles from changing lanes. (AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety)
    • 0.3% of drivers admitted to frequently cutting off other vehicles deliberately. (AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety)
    • 0.1% of drivers admitted to frequently bumping or ramming other vehicles intentionally.

How the Time and Date Affect Car Accidents

  • The beginning of daylight savings is linked to an increase in auto accidents, per an analysis by the University of British Columbia. (III)
  • Crashes caused by drivers under the influence of drugs or alcohol are more frequent around Christmas and New Year’s Day compared to Thanksgiving Day. (III)
  • Crashes on the days around Thanksgiving are concentrated around typical rush hours. (III)
  • Holidays are generally a time of increased travel and traffic deaths. In 2018, Memorial Day was the holiday period with the highest number of motor vehicle deaths (389), followed by Thanksgiving Day (385), Christmas Day (380), Labor Day (375), New Year’s Day (304) and Independence Day (152). (III)

Intersections, Railroads and Work Zones

    • Highway-rail grade crossing collisions and pedestrian trespass on tracks together make up over 95% of all railroad fatalities in the United States. (Federal Railroad Administration)
    • In 2017, 222 fatal work zone crashes occurred involving large trucks or buses. (FHWA)
    • A single work zone fatality occurs for every 4 billion vehicle miles of travel and for every $112 million worth of roadway construction expenditures. (FHWA)
    • In 2018, 37% of bicyclist deaths occurred at intersections. (IIHS)

How Weather Affects Car Accidents

  • Out of nearly six million vehicular crashes that occur every year in the United States, approximately 21% are weather-related. (FHWA)
    • 70% of weather-related crashes happen on wet pavement, 46% occur during rainfall, 18% during snow or sleet, 16% on snowy or slushy pavement, 13% on icy pavement, and 3% in fog. (FHWA)

Sickness and Car Accidents

  • Just 50 mg of diphenhydramine (a popular over-the-counter antihistamine) can impair your driving more than a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.10%. The legal limit for BAC is under 0.08% in most US states. (University of Iowa)
  • A bout of the common cold can increase a driver’s reaction time about as much as a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% (which constitutes legal intoxication in most states). (Cardiff University)
    • This figure does not include possible additional driving impairment from medications taken to treat the common cold. (Cardiff University)

Fatal Car Accidents: Statistics

Sometimes car accidents end in tragedy. In order to stay safe, it’s important to be informed about the prevalence of fatal car accidents and how such accidents typically occur.

Overview

  • There were 33,244 fatal motor vehicle crashes in the United States in 2019 in which 36,096 deaths occurred(IIHS)
  • These crashes resulted in 11 deaths per 100,000 people and 1.11 deaths per 100 million miles traveled. (IIHS)
  • Approximately 1.35 million people pass away in road crashes each year; on average 3,700 people lose their lives every day on the roads globally. (WHO)
    • An additional 20-50 million suffer non-fatal injuries, often resulting in long-term disabilities. (WHO)
  • Preliminary data from the National Safety Council (NSC) show that an estimated 42,060 people perished in motor vehicle crashes in 2020, up 8 percent from 2019.
  • Additionally, 4,795,000 people were injured in 2020 and the estimated cost of deaths, injuries and property damage totaled $474 billion. (NSC)
  • The fatality rate per 100,000 people ranged from 3.3 in the District of Columbia to 25.4 in Wyoming. (IIHS)
  • The death rate per 100 million miles traveled ranged from 0.51 in Massachusetts to 1.73 in South Carolina. (IIHS)

Contributing Factors to Car Accidents

  • 74% of pedestrian fatalities happen at night. (Active Transportation Alliance)
  • 15% of pedestrians killed yearly are hit by a drunk driver, while 34% of pedestrians killed are legally drunk themselves. (Active Transportation Alliance)
  • In 2018, 26% of crashes that led to pedestrian deaths in 2018 occurred between 6 PM. and 9 PM, and 24% occurred between 9 PM and midnight. (IIHS)
  • Frontal impacts caused 54% of passenger vehicle occupant deaths in 2016. Side impacts accounted for a further 25% of passenger vehicle occupant deaths. (IIHS)
  • In 2017, the number of motorcycle fatalities per mile traveled was nearly 27 times the number of car fatalities per mile traveled. (IIHS)
    • Of those fatalities, 16% of car drivers and 31% of motorcycle drivers did not possess a valid operator’s license. (IIHS)
  • Motorcycles account for only 0.6% of all vehicle miles traveled, but motorcyclists account for 14% of all traffic fatalities and 17% of all occupant fatalities. (NHTSA)
  • While just 20% of passenger vehicle crashes result in injury or death, 80% of motorcycle crashes result in injury or death. (NHTSA)
  • In 2018, 37% of motorcyclist deaths occurred through single-vehicle crashes; 63% of motorcyclist deaths occurred through multiple-vehicle crashes. (IIHS)
  • 48% of motorcyclist deaths in 2018 happened on weekends, and weekend deaths were more likely to occur after 6 PM when compared with weekdays. (IIHS)
  • 53% of motorcyclist deaths in 2018 occurred on major roads other than interstates and freeways. (IIHS)
  • In 2018, deaths of bicyclists were highest––21%––from 6 PM to 9 PM (IIHS)
  • In 2018, 63% of bicyclist fatalities took place on major roads other than interstates and freeways, and 29% occurred on minor roads. (IIHS) 
  • Fatalities bicyclists younger than 20 were more likely to occur on minor roads compared with deaths of bicyclists ages 20 and older, at  44% vs. 28%. (IIHS)
  • 48% of passenger vehicle occupants killed in the US were unrestrained. (NHTSA)
  • When restraint use was able to be determined, 52% of male fatalities and 40% of female fatalities were unrestrained. (NHTSA)

Victims of Car Accidents

  • More than half of all road traffic deaths occur among vulnerable road users—pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcyclists. (WHO)
  • Pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities are on the rise in the United States. Per the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), more pedestrians and cyclists were killed in 2018 than in any year since 1990. 
  • In fatal crashes in 2017, about 83% of passenger vehicle occupants who were totally ejected from the vehicle died. (NHTSA)
  • Vehicle occupants accounted for 66% of traffic deaths in 2018. (NHTSA)
  • Pedestrians accounted for 17% of traffic deaths in 2018. Motorcycle riders accounted for another 14%, while pedal cyclists, other nonoccupants and unknown occupants accounted for the remainder. (NHTSA)
  • A pedestrian struck at 20 miles an hour has a 10% chance of dying. A pedestrian who is struck at 40 miles an hour has an 80% chance of dying. (Active Transportation Alliance)
  • A pedestrian was killed every 1.5 hours on average in traffic crashes in 2016. (NHTSA)
  • In crashes of large trucks in 2018, 4,136 victims were killed. 16% of these deaths were truck occupants, 67% were occupants of cars and other passenger vehicles, and 15% were pedestrians, bicyclists, or motorcyclists. (IIHS, 2019)
  • In 2018, 96% of vehicle occupants killed in two-vehicle crashes involving a large truck and a passenger vehicle were occupants of the passenger vehicles. (IIHS)
  • More than half of all road traffic deaths worldwide occur among pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcyclists. (WHO)
  • Pedestrian deaths made up 16% of all traffic fatalities in 2016. (NHTSA)
  • 74% of passenger vehicle occupants killed in 2016 were drivers; 71% of those killed were males. (IIHS)
  • In 2018, 79% of bicyclists were killed in urban areas. In 1975, bicyclist deaths occurred at roughly equal rates in both rural and urban areas. (IIHS)

You’ve learned more about how frequent crashes are and what factors tend to cause them. But what about the larger trends regarding car accidents and driver safety? Is the road becoming a safer place, or is getting behind the wheel as hazardous as ever? The graphic below uses proprietary Insurify data to compare the percentage of American drivers with prior at-fault accidents compared to those without.

Source: Insurify’s analysis of over four million car insurance applications.

Safety and Prevention

  • Based on daytime observational surveys conducted by the states, the rate of seat belt use nationwide among front-seat passenger vehicle occupants in 2019 was 91%. (NHTSA)
    • The NHTSA also found that only 74% of rear-seat passengers in personal vehicles and 57% in hired vehicles like taxis or limosuines wear seat belts.
  • In 2019, fatally injured occupants of cars were approximately half as likely to have been restrained when compared with the nationwide average. (NHTSA)
  • Frontal airbags saved the lives of 2,790 occupants aged 13 and older in 2017. (NHTSA)
  • Seatbelts reduce the risk of fatal injury to front-seat passenger car occupants by 45%. (NHTSA)
  • Among all passenger vehicle occupants age aged five an older, seatbelts saved an estimated 14,955 lives in 2017. (NHTSA)
  • Helmets saved the lives of an estimated 1,872 motorcyclists in 2017. (NHTSA)
    • If all motorcyclists wore helmets, an additional 749 lives could have been saved. (NHTSA)
    • Helmets are estimated by the NHTSA to be 37% effective in preventing fatal injuries to motorcycle riders, and 41% effective in preventing fatal injuries to motorcycle passengers. (NHTSA)
  • The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) requires all vehicles manufactured after model year 2012 to have electronic stability control, also known as ESC.
    • ESC saved about 1,949 passenger car occupant lives in 2015, including 857 passenger car occupants, and saved 1,091 lives among light truck and van occupants. (NHTSA)
  • In November 2020, the U.S. Department of Transportation issued its Pedestrian Safety Action Plan in response to the growing number of pedestrian fatalities.
    • The report showed that from 2010 to 2019, total traffic fatalities grew nine percent but pedestrian traffic fatalities rose 44%, from 4,302 to 6,205.
  • In 2016, frontal airbags saved the lives of 2,756 occupants aged 13 and older. (NHTSA)
    • The fatality-reducing effectiveness for airbags is 14% when no seatbelt is used, and is 11% when a seatbelt is used in conjunction with airbags.
    • From 1987 to 2015, frontal airbags saved 44,869 lives in the United States. (NHTSA)

Car Accident Trends Over Time

  • Fatalities decreased somewhat in 2019 for passengers, motorcyclists, drivers, pedal cyclists, and pedestrians. (NHTSA)
  • The fatality rate, measured as deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, dropped to 1.13 in 2018 from 1.17 in 2017. (III)
  • Pedestrian traffic fatalities were 13% of all traffic fatalities in 2010; by 2019 that proportion increased to 17%. (III)
  • The fatality rate for pedestrians, measured by one billion vehicle miles traveled, rose to 2.30 from 1.90 in 2019, an increase of 21%. (III)
  • The number of pedestrian fatalities grew by 27% from 2007 to 2016; at the same time, all other traffic deaths decreased by 14%. (III)
  • Since 1972, the number of train and motor vehicle collisions in the United States has declined by 83%. (Federal Railroad Administration, 2019)
  • Car occupant deaths have declined 46% since 1975, while pickup occupant deaths have risen 25% and SUV occupant deaths are over 10 times as high. (IIHS)
  • Since 1978, driver death rates for single-vehicle rollover crashes have declined across all passenger vehicle types, especially SUVs. (IIHS)
  • Between 1913 and 2019, the number of U.S. motor-vehicle deaths, including all types of motor vehicles, including passenger cars, trucks, buses, and motorcycles, increased 831%, from 4,200 deaths in 1913 to 39,107 deaths in 2019. (NSC)
    • In 1913, 33.38 people died per 10,000 vehicles on the road. (NSC)
    • In 2019, the death rate was 1.41 per 10,000 vehicles, an improvement of 96%. (NSC)
  • The population-wide motor-vehicle death rate reached its apex in 1937, with 30.8 deaths per 100,000 members of the population. (NSC)

Other Trends in Car Accidents

  • 70% of accident victims are occupants within the actual vehicle––the drivers and passengers. (Aceable)
    • The other 30% are those outside of cars, like pedestrians and motorcyclists. (Aceable)
  •  Friday, Saturday, and Sunday are the riskiest days for car accidents. In 2018, about 50% of fatal crashes occurred on Friday, Saturday or Sunday. (NHTSA)
  • In 2016, just 21% of the U.S. population lived in rural areas, but 60% of crash fatalities occurred in rural areas. (NHTSA)

Car Accidents and COVID-19

Has COVID-19 influenced car accidents? As you might expect, COVID-19 has had a profound impact on how much Americans drive and their behavior behind the wheel, according to Insurify’s 2020 Annual Report. 

  • In March, April, and May of 2020, Americans drove 28% fewer miles in 2020 than during the same period the previous spring.
  • Preliminary data also suggests that the number of fatalities dropped 12% annually over this same time. 
  • That said, the fatality rate of accidents that did occur increased by 23% over the same time span, as motorists drove more recklessly when faced with less congested roads. 

Car Accidents and Car Insurance

One of the most serious aftereffects of an accident behind the wheel is the serious impact it can have on your car insurance premiums. That’s why one of the most important things you can do after a car accident is taking a few minutes to use a quote-comparison website like Insurify and see whether you might be eligible for a less expensive policy or to purchase a plan with more comprehensive coverage. The statistics below are drawn from the Insurify 2020 Annual Report. 

  • On average, having even a single traffic incident on record can hike up your premium by 32 percent.
  • Drivers with an accident on their driving history pay $1,589 on average for insurance, while car owners who have committed no offenses in the last seven years spend only $1,208 in comparison.
  • Major violations such as at-fault accidents, driving under the influence, having speeding contests on public roads, and reckless driving all have significant impacts on car insurance rates. Major violations like this can raise premiums by as much as 49%.
  • Aggressive drivers, which includes drivers with an at-fault accident or a hit and run pay 20% more for insurance than safe drivers. That means safer drivers with clean violation records on average pay $1208 per year while aggressive drivers $1564 on average.

The proprietary Insurify graphic below shows just how much a driving violation can cost, demonstrating the average percentage increase in monthly premiums after minor, intermediate, and major violations behind the wheel.

Source: Insurify’s analysis of over four million car insurance applications. Minor violations constitute driving offenses like failure to yield or running a red light. Intermediate violations constitute offenses like careless driving, negligence, or operating without insurance. Major violations constitute offenses like reckless driving or speeding contests on public roads. 

Methodology & Sources

The data visualizations above are derived from Insurify’s proprietary database of over four million unique driver quotes. Statistics from the following institutions were also incorporated onto this page: The NHTSA, the IIHS, the Federal Railroad Administration, the III, Wandering RV, the NHTSA, Aceable, the NSC, the WHO, Active Transportation Alliance, University of Iowa, Cardiff University, the FHWA, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, SafeMotorist.com, TeenSafe, the CDC, the National Sleep Foundation, Consumer Reports, the FCC, Driver Knowledge, Driver’s Alert, Everquote, the Chicago Tribune, Cambridge Mobile Telematics, WIRED, Monash University, Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, National General Insurance, the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association.

Other sources for statistics incorporated into this page include Fortune, the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, the Governors Highway Safety Foundation, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the National Center for Statistics and Analysis, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, MADD, Consumer Reports, Virtual Drive, the AA-Populus Motoring Panel, USDOT, Safe Ride For Kids, Safe Kids Worldwide, KidsAndCars.org, Texas A&M Transportation Institute, Safer America, the Government of Canada, the American Journal of Public Health, the Highway Loss Data Institute, the ASIRT, and Smart Growth America.

Data Attribution: The information, statistics, and data visualizations on this page are free to use; we simply ask that you attribute any full or partial use to Insurify through a link to this page.


      

Car Accident Statistics: Quick Questions

How much can an accident raise my insurance?

Major violations such as at-fault accidents, driving under the influence, having speeding contests on public roads, and reckless driving all have significant impacts on car insurance rates and can raise driver's premiums by as much as 49%.

How common are car accidents?

More than 38,000 people die every year in crashes on U.S. roadways. The U.S. traffic fatality rate is 12.4 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants. Every year, roughly 1.3 million people die in car accidents worldwide - an average of 3,287 deaths per day.

What are the most common causes of car accidents?

Drunk driving, speeding, distracted driving, aggressive driving, and driving while drowsy are the primary causes of car accidents. Weather, illness, and psychological or emotional stress can also be contributing factors to car accidents.

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Updated July 21, 2021

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