How Many People Die in Car Accidents?

Learn the latest saddening facts about how many car deaths happen per year, and what we can do to prevent them.

What was once considered a major breakthrough for the everyday convenience of humankind, is now a major cause of death. The number of motor vehicles, most commonly cars and other passenger vehicles have increased immensely over the years, as have the resulting car deaths per year rates, both nationally and internationally.

People in the US, as well as other countries across the world, experience massive losses of friends, family, and loved ones due to this soaring cause of death. And despite respective organizations calling people to action in order to prevent and reduce this social malice, it seems like the issue goes deeper than a superficial competency problem. With one of the major preventive measures being increased awareness and a general rise in traffic culture, an overview of some of the most notable stats regarding the matter such as this one may come about to a positive effect.

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Frightening Car Deaths Per Year Statistics for 2020

  • 1.35 million people die in road accidents worldwide every year — 3,700 deaths a day.
  • Car crashes have risen to the 8th leading cause of death for people globally.
  • Saturday is estimated to be the deadliest day of the week for car crashes in the US.
  • In 2017, there were a total of 34,247 car crashes involving fatalities on US roads.
  • Distracted driving is a leading cause of accidents, causing 25–50% of all crashes.

How Many People Die in Car Accidents Every Year Globally?

1) More than 90% of all fatal road crashes occur in low and middle-income countries.

These countries have less than half of the world’s vehicles running on their roads, yet due to multiple factors — lack of awareness, careless driving, and so on — provoke more car accidents than all other countries combined. As a result, over 90% of all accident fatalities occur on their roads.

Source: Association for Safe International Road Travel

2) Car crash statistics show that about 1.35 million people die on the roads per annum.

According to statistical data, nearly a million and a half people are killed in road crashes each year. On average, this means that approximately 3,700 people die each day in road crashes around the world. This data is drawn up for crashes involving cars for the most part, as well as busses and trucks and other participants in global traffic — pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcyclists.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

3) Car accident deaths are the 8th leading cause of death globally.

The latest stats collected from new data show that road traffic accidents have risen from 9th to 8th place on the table of the top leading killers worldwide. Nowadays, more people die in car accidents than from HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and diarrheal diseases, mainly due to increased progress in medical preventive measures and treatment.

Source: World Health Organization

4) Traffic fatalities (2018) stats show this to be the #1 cause of death among people ages 5–29.

These accidents on the roads around the world have been a leading cause of death for children and young people ages 5–29. On a similar note, they are considered to be the second leading cause of death for children and youngsters ages 5–14. And with approximately half a million people under 25 dying on the roads each year, accidents are turning into a modern global menace.

Source: World Health Organization 

5) Fatal car wrecks and road accidents cost countries worldwide about 3% of their GDP.

Estimates vary, as some countries have costs estimated at about 1–2% of their Gross Domestic Product, while others experience up to 3% expenses. In cash terms, the total amount of incurred costs from such accidents is estimated at $518 billion. This amount exceeds the financial support these countries get in development assistance, making it an all-damaging problem.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

6) Traffic fatalities rates can be drastically reduced by the simple use of restraint at all times.

More than half of the teens and adults involved in car crashes that ended fatally weren’t using a seat belt. Therefore, extensive measures have been taken in order to prevent such fatalities by increasing the use of restraint, either through legal regulations, surveillance, fines, and penalties, as well as by raising awareness.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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How Many People Die in Car Accidents in the US?

7) In 2017, there were a total of 34,247 car crashes involving fatalities on US roads.

The total number of fatalities out of these accidents is nearer to 40,000, or more precisely — 37,133 deaths. While this number is already disturbing enough, an additional 2.35 million individuals were also reported injured from such occurrences. In this regard, victims could end up with various permanent disabilities.

Source: Association for Safe International Road Travel

8) Car accident USA stats show that these incidents cost $230.6 billion a year.

Just in the US, car accidents incur about a third of the total global cost estimated from this kind of event. On average, such a massive amount translates to an average of roughly $820 per individual each year, a significant cost only surpassed by the passing of victims in said accidents. Bear in mind that these traffic accidents are the leading cause of death for US citizens traveling abroad.

Source: Association for Safe International Road Travel

9) Car accident deaths per year among US residents have been rising for three years now.

When compared to the death rates of car accidents from four years ago, US statistics in such events record a chilling 14% rise. A little over 40,000 people are estimated to have died just in 2018 from traffic accident-related causes. Despite low fluctuations on a year-to-year basis, the National Safety Council (NSC) is raising the alarm due to such stats.

Source: National Safety Council

10) Stats on car deaths per year in the USA show Saturday to be the most fatal day of the week.

According to statistical data on days of the week, Saturday was shown to be the most fatal of all days. One specific time period stands out in particular, from midnight to 3 AM with 1,015 fatal accidents, on average; the other fatal time period is from 6 PM until 9 PM, averaging around 1,001 fatalities. Taking the rest of the day into account, a total of 6,104 crashes are recorded on Saturdays (on average) across the US.

Source: SaferAmerica

11) 46% of all car accident deaths per year in the US occur on rural roads.

Despite the popular opinion that urban areas are much more dangerous when it comes to traffic accidents, stats have shown that the difference in fatal crashes is much slighter. Montana takes the lead in rural road crash deaths with 90% of all fatalities occurring in such locations, while the District of Columbia has 0% since it is wholly considered to be an urban area. 

North Dakota and South Dakota rank high in this regard, with 90% and 84% respectively, while Massachusetts only recorded 6% of all deaths occurring on rural roads.

Source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety — IIHS

12) Over 60% of pet owners in the US are at risk of fatal car crashes due to driving while distracted by their pets.

A large number of households in the US (over 43 million) own a pet, yet only 16% of these have been estimated to use proper restrains and containment during travel. Out of all these households, a little more than half (52%) admit to petting their dog, or another pet, while driving. And with nearly the same amount (51%) of owners expressing willingness to take their pet to all their trips, the possibility for such car accidents is practically boosted.

Source: Pet Pro Supply Co.

Fatal Car Accidents by State

13) Most car crashes resulting in deaths per 100,000 people were recorded in Mississippi — 23.1.

The highest point of the death rate estimated per 100 million miles traveled, on the other hand, was recorded in South Carolina — 1.80. As for the lowest points, the District of Columbia boasts a low 4.5 death rate per 100,000 people, and Massachusetts — 0.58 per 100 million miles passed.

A map showing the number of car accidents fatalities by state in the USA

Source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety — IIHS

14) Stats on automobile deaths per year for 2019 are still collected, but seven states already show a 17% or more decrease in fatality rates for the first half.

A decrease of 17% or more was noted across seven states during the preliminary data compilation for 2019 statistics. Vermont was most successful, reducing their rate by 58%, followed by South Dakota’s reduction of 49%. A 25% decrease was recorded in Connecticut; 22% un Nevada; 21% in New Hampshire; 20% in the District of Columbia; and lastly, an 18% decrease was noted in the state of Oklahoma.

Source: National Safety Council

15) Similarly, preliminary US car deaths per year estimates noted a rate increase of 11% or more in eight states.

The greatest increase of this death rate for the preliminary period of 2019’s first half was recorded in Wyoming, up to 78%. Maine’s rate increased by 36%; Hawaii — 20%; North Dakota — 18%; whereas New Mexico’s death rate increased by 15%. Lowest increases of 13% and 12% were recorded in Alaska and Tennessee on the one hand, and Montana on the other, respectively.

Source: National Safety Council

16) Single-vehicle crash deaths are most common across states in the US — up to 54% of all fatal crashes.

The highest single-vehicle traffic fatalities by state rate have been recorded in the District of Columbia — 77%, while the lowest stands firm at 49%. Three states tie for the rank — Indiana, Michigan, and Minnesota, followed by Texas at a 50–50 ratio between single-vehicle and multi-vehicle crash deaths. With different causes most commonly found for each type of vehicle crash, respectively, each state can easily identify their main traffic issues and act accordingly towards their resolution.

Source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety — IIHS

17) Up to 62% of car crash deaths included blood alcohol concentration (BAC) in their reports.

Oklahoma had the highest rate of deaths caused by such accidents — 93%, while Indiana had the lowest rate — 29%. Numbers are alarming for up to 31 states and the District of Columbia — reports show BAC in 70% of accidents. 

The highest rate is reported in the District of Columbia — 70%, the lowest is in Kentucky — 19%. The US permits BAC levels up to 0.08, which is out of line with WHO recommendations of up to 0.05 BAC; possibly the leading cause for such accidents and resulting fatalities.

Source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety — IIHS & StreetsBlog

18. Based on type, motor vehicle deaths per year show the highest rates of car crashes in Ohio — 47%.

Car vehicle deaths show the highest rates in Ohio, up to 47%, while SUV and pickup occupants’ deaths rates are much lower — 22%. Contrary to this, SUV and pickups were involved in much more fatal crashes in North Dakota, up to 49%, while car accident occupants’ deaths in this state have the same low rate of 22%. In this regard, it is important to mention that rates for large truck occupants’ deaths in crashes involving such vehicles are predominantly low, even though they are often part of such accidents.

Source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety — IIHS

Pedestrian Deaths in Car Accidents

19) Car accident death rates involving pedestrians are highest in the District of Columbia — 35%.

Up to 35% of all pedestrians involved in car crashes were fatally injured from the accidents occurring on the roads of the District of Columbia. Contrary to this, the lowest estimated pedestrian death rate for those involved in car accidents has been estimated in the state of North Dakota — 4%. Only slightly higher, 5%, is the death rate of pedestrians in car crashes occurring on Wyoming.

Source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety — IIHS

20) Pedestrian deaths by car accidents have increased by 41% over the past decade.

Since 2008, the death of pedestrians involved in car accidents has increased by over 40%. In fact, the current rate is considered to have reached the highest point since 1990, a fact that the Executive Director of the US Governors Highway Safety Association, Jonathan Adkins, pointed out as rather alarming.

Source: CNBC

21) As part of the GHSA car crash deaths per year report for 2018, a total number of 6,227 pedestrians lost their lives in such accidents.

More specifically, the total of 6,227 deaths of pedestrians recorded is 250 deaths more than just in 2017. Their report cited the increased population numbers, as well as American’s “growing love affair” with specific vehicle types — SUVs, pickups — along with major smartphone use, speeding and alcohol use to be the top causes. After all, just between the years 2013 and 2017, pedestrian deaths from road crashes involving SUVs jumped by 50%.

Source: CNBC

22) Automotive fatalities involving pedestrians are highest in urban areas.

Due to this, the GHSA ran statistics on the 10 most highly populated US cities, with findings showing that the 2017 numbers are 15% lower than those of 2016, but still 9% higher than the death rate in 2015. New York experienced one of the most drastic decreases — from 137 deaths in 2016 to 95 in 2017, while Phoenix, AZ, actually saw a rise — from 90 to 98 deaths.

Source: Governors Highway Safety Association

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What are the Leading Causes of Traffic Fatalities

According to the National Motor Vehicle Crash Causation Study (NMVCCS) conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, each crash is caused by a specific critical reason. This is normally the last in a chain of events prompting the circumstances towards a fatal outcome and is commonly related to one of three factors — drivers, vehicles, and environment.

Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration — NHTSA

24) Reports on automotive deaths show distracted driving to be the leading cause of traffic accidents, accounting for 25–50% of all car crashes.

The NHTSA reports over the years show drivers being continuously prone to distractions. Cell phone use is considered a major factor in this regard, with up to 85% of phone users — 500,000 individuals actually talking on the phone while driving. The worst part is that something as simple as talking on the phone actually quadruples the chances of an accident.

Source: Waterdown Collision

25) Surfing on social media while driving reduces response time by 38%, making it a major cause of car fatalities.

As a matter of fact, the act of surfing social media sites while driving is three times riskier than drinking and driving, another leading cause of such accidents. Bear in mind that quite a few accidents are caused by operating a vehicle while intoxicated — up to 30%, yet such common and seemingly harmless momentary distractions are that detrimental. Texting is another obvious distraction, along with eating, taking in the scenery, playing music, applying makeup or simply dealing with the remaining occupants in the car.

Source: JDSupra

26) 20% of all road accidents, i.e., 25% of traffic deaths per year are directly attributed to driver fatigue.

Prolonged reaction time, as well as reduced concentration and vision, are the main results of fatigue — a condition of bodily distress and the lack of ability to perform attention-demanding tasks such as driving. 

Further estimates by the NHTSA show that about 100,000 accidents of the total occurring in the USA per annum can be attributed to driver fatigue. The most critical periods for drivers lacking proper rest are the hours between 11 PM and 8 AM when the body naturally prepares for rest and sleep.

Source: Waterdown Collision

27) Speeding is the most common form of aggressive driving, and another leading auto death cause.

Going over the speed limit is not reasonable driving, yet more than 50% of single-vehicle crashes are caused by it, with serious injury or death following in the aftermath. Drivers aged 16–24 account for 40% of all speeding drivers involved in fatal crashes, with most of them ending up losing their lives at the end of the line. 

The fate of passengers in a speeding car is quite similar, with up to 80% of them being killed when driving in a speeding car. Drunk driving is a factor in this regard as well, with up to 1 in 3 speeding drivers involved in fatal crashes with traces of alcohol in their blood.

Source: Waterdown Collision

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Steps to Reduce the Number of Fatal Car Crashes

    • Pay attention to your vehicle. A driver that doesn’t take care of their vehicle’s appearance, hygiene, or functionality is a potential road hazard.
    • Steer away from the fast lane. Avoid suspicion and keep your options open by sticking to the middle lanes in case you need to react to road conditions quickly.
    • Keep alertness high. Always make sure you are rested and prepared for the drive, so as to maintain a defensive mode throughout the ride.
    • Pay special attention to intersections and parking lots. This isn’t to say that automobile deaths are a rarity in other environments, but the increased risk at points such as these calls for even greater alertness than usual.
    • Keep an eye out for blind spots. The blind spots of a driver’s vision, especially when handling a larger vehicle (for instance, a pickup or truck) can be risky; making sure the side and rearview mirrors are positioned properly, as well as installing or using any additional cameras or other parking devices is bound to help reduce blind spot risk of casualties.
    • Eliminate substance use. A lot of traffic deaths result from substance abuse — alcohol, drugs, or even prescription medicine — hence why making sure you’re sober and fit to operate a vehicle is a key precondition for any driver.
    • Understand your car’s limits and respect them!
    • Avoid major risk factors whenever possible — food, drink, cell phone use!
    • Invest in a quality vehicle for a quality drive!

Source: SGP Law &

How Car Accident Statistics Influence Insurance Rates

Car accidents are stressful moments in everyone’s lives, so much so that some people may actually die while participating in fatal crashes. Following a car accident, people’s focus mainly shifts to getting to a safe location, receiving proper medical assistance and the likes. Nevertheless, once the dust settles (literally, at times), there is but one other thing to be wary of — insurance rates.

Car crash deaths are specific cases where there are fatal victims in the accident, causing such events to be pursued under the letter of the law. And while law-enforcement representatives are involved in crashes involving any less harmful results, the participants’ attention mostly turns to the insurance companies.

Accidents are known to be a major factor when determining insurance rates at any company, along with age, car type, credit history, neighborhood, marital status, and more. Even a minor violation, such as a speeding ticket, could see your rates go up by 20% to 40%. Other times, rates could be kept intact, but the company would revoke all benefits and discounts, still causing the driver to pay more. With a growing number of car accident deaths per year, such implications on drivers’ budgets are all but welcome; and while some level of tolerance exists for cases where a lack of guilt in both parties is provable, the overall insurance rate increase is a factor worth considering during any reckless driving session.

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Bottom Line

Traffic accidents are one of the major causes of death in modern times, with plenty of contemporary factors boosting the number of occurrences on a day-to-day basis. As mentioned above, car deaths per year are getting record numbers for the past three decades in the US alone. And with global numbers calculated into the equation, the imminence of the matter is all the greater. 

Raising awareness, imposing stricter fines, and putting some of the above-recommended practices to use are just some of the ways to strive towards reduced rates, and such an overview of national and global facts and stats is bound to push things in the right direction all the sooner.

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)
How many fatal vehicle crashes happened in 2019?
Globally, around 1.3 million auto deaths per year have been estimated by the WHO, with the latest reports amounting to 1.35 million. In the US alone, a rising trend of crash-related deaths has caused just as much alarm – going over 40.000 cases according to 2019 data. Some decrease seemed promising back in 2017 (37,133 fatalities) when data were nearly 2% less than 2016 (37,806), the first decline since 2014.
How likely is it to die in a car crash?
On a global level, car crashes are ranked as the 8th most common cause of death among the human population. For the US specifically, the odds of being involved are 1:103, an estimate that has finally removed car crashes from the top leading causes of death, a position that was most recently taken up by opioid overdose.
How many people have died from unrestrained occupants?
Car deaths per year rates are extremely high — up to 43% of all unrestrained vehicle occupants in the US have lost their lives in the event.
How many car accidents are fatal?
Out of approximately 6 million car accidents occurring per annum in the US, about 6% are considered fatal for at least one participant.
  1. 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.

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