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Car Crashes

The cost and crashworthiness of vehicles as well as drivers’ safety habits affect the cost of car insurance. In 2007, 41,059 people died in motor vehicle crashes and an additional 2,491,000 people were injured, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. In 2008, 37,313 people were estimated to have died in motor vehicle crashes. Out of concern for public safety and to help reduce the cost of crashes, insurers support safe driving initiatives. In 1969 the insurance industry created the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, an organization best known for its vehicle crashworthiness testing program. The industry has also fought to get auto manufacturers to make air bags standard equipment in vehicles and is a major supporter of antidrunk driving and seatbelt usage campaigns. Drivers themselves have also contributed to the reduction in crash-related fatalities by demanding safer vehicles.

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for people of every age between three and 34 except for seven-year olds (based on 2005 data). 

A motor vehicle death occurs on average every 13 minutes and an injury every 13 seconds. About 112 people died each day in motor vehicle crashes in 2007.

Since the first documented crash death in 1899, more than 30 million people worldwide have died in traffic crashes.


2010: According to early estimates from the U.S. Department of Transportation's National Center for Statistics and Analysis of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA,, 32,788 Americans died in motor vehicle crashes, down 3 percent from 33,808 in 2009. Crash deaths in 2010 are the lowest since record keeping began in 1949. The fatality rate in 2010, measured as deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, was estimated to be 1.09, also the lowest rate ever recorded and down from 1.13 in 2009. The record low fatality rate occurred despite an estimated increase of almost 21 billion miles in national vehicle miles traveled.

2009: In 2009, 33,808 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes, down 9.7 percent from 37,423 in 2008, despite the fact that the number of vehicle miles traveled increased by 0.2 percent. This was the lowest number of deaths since 1950, when 33,186 people died in motor vehicle crashes. The fatality rate in 2009, measured as deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, was 1.13, the lowest rate ever recorded and down from 1.26 in 2008.

Severity of Crashes: In 2009 there were 5,505,000 police-reported motor vehicle traffic crashes, down 5.3 percent from 5,811,000 in 2008. Of total crashes, 1,517,000 caused injuries and 3,957,000 caused property damage only. NHTSA estimates 10 million or more crashes go unreported every year.

Work-Related: In 2009 crashes involving vehicles on public roadways were the leading cause of work-related fatalities, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, accounting for 20 percent of all fatal work injuries.

By Age Group: According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in 2008 older people (65 and older) made up 15 percent of all traffic fatalities, 14 percent of vehicle occupant fatalities and 18 percent of pedestrian fatalities, in large part because they are frailer and more likely to die from their injuries than younger people. (See Older Drivers paper.) In 2007 (latest data available) there were 31 million older licensed drivers, up 19 percent from 1997. The total number of drivers rose only 13 percent from 1997 to 2007.

In 2008 drivers between the ages of 15 and 20 accounted for 12 percent of all drivers in fatal crashes and for 14 percent of all drivers in police-reported crashes. In 2007 (latest available data) drivers in this age group accounted for 6.4 percent of all licensed drivers. To reduce high accident rates among young drivers, states are increasingly adopting graduated driver license programs, which allow young drivers to improve their skills and driving habits. (See Teen Driving paper).

In 2009 there were 62 million children age 14 and younger, according to NHTSA, or 20 percent of the resident population of the United States. This group accounted for 1,314, or 4 percent, of the 33,808 traffic fatalities in 2009, down 3 percent from 1,350 killed in 2008. An additional 179,000 children were injured in 2009, down 7 percent from 193,000 in 2008. On average, four children were killed and 490 injured every day in motor vehicle crashes in 2009.
Auto Crashes Continued

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Car Crashes