Facts + Statistics: Highway safety

The cost and crashworthiness of vehicles as well as drivers’ safety habits affect the cost of auto insurance. Out of concern for public safety and to help reduce the cost of crashes, insurers support safe driving initiatives. The insurance industry is a major supporter of anti-drunk driving and seatbelt usage campaigns.

 
Lives saved by safety devices

  • Airbags: Airbags are designed to inflate in moderate to severe frontal crashes. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says that as of 2013 there were 202 million airbag-equipped passenger vehicles on the road in the United States, including 199 million with dual air bags. The agency says that frontal airbags saved 2,573 lives in 2015. Airbags, combined with seatbelts, are the most effective safety protection available for passenger vehicles. Seatbelts alone reduce the risk of fatal injury to front-seat passenger car occupants by 45 percent. The fatality-reducing effectiveness for frontal airbags is 14 percent when no seatbelt is used and 11 percent when a seatbelt is used in conjunction with airbags.
  • Seatbelts: Among passenger vehicle occupants age five and older, seatbelts saved an estimated 13,941 lives in 2015. In fatal crashes in 2014, about 80 percent of passenger vehicle occupants who were totally ejected from the vehicle were killed. NHTSA says that when used seat belts reduce the risk of fatal injury to front seat passenger car occupants by 45 percent and the risk of moderate-to-critical injury by 50 percent. For light truck occupants, the risk is reduced by 60 percent and 65 percent, respectively.
  • Child safety seats: NHTSA says that in 2015 the lives of an estimated 266 children under the age of five were saved by restraints.
  • Motorcycle helmets: NHTSA estimates that helmets saved the lives of 1,772 motorcyclists in 2015. If all motorcyclists had worn helmets, an additional 740 lives could have been saved.
  • Helmets are estimated to be 37 percent effective in preventing fatal injuries to motorcycle riders and 41 percent for motorcycle passengers. In other words, for every 100 motorcycle riders killed in crashes while not wearing a helmet, 37 of them could have been saved had all 100 worn helmets.
  • Electronic stability control: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) requires all vehicles manufactured after model year 2012 to have electronic stability control (ESC). All new passenger cars, light trucks, SUVs and vans must comply with the requirement. ESC was designed to help prevent rollovers and other types of crashes by controlling brakes and engine power.
  • NHTSA says ESC saved an estimated 681 passenger car occupant lives in 2014 and 899 lives among light truck and van occupants for a total of 1,580 lives saved among passenger vehicle occupants. The 2014 total for lives compares with 1,366 lives saved in 2013 and 1,225 lives saved in 2012. Over the five years from 2010 to 2014, NHTSA says the ESC has saved a total of more than 4,100 lives.
  • NHTSA estimated that about 99 million 2006-model year and newer passenger vehicles (passenger cars and light trucks and vans) were equipped with ESC.  This works out to 38.8 percent of the 255 million passenger vehicles on the road in 2014.
  • In May 2014 NHTSA released a report on updated estimates of fatality reduction by electronic stability control (ESC), which found that in single-vehicle crashes of passenger cars, where the first harmful event was a rollover, ESC decreased rollovers by 59.5 percent, relative to a control group. The reduction in rollovers was even more dramatic in LTVs such as pickup trucks, SUVs and vans, 74 percent.
  • In June 2010 the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) released the findings of a study that found that ESC for passenger vehicles is one of the most effective technologies for the prevention of fatal crashes, especially rollovers. IIHS data show that it lowers the risk of a deadly crash by 33 percent and cuts the risk of a single-vehicle rollover by 73 percent. The IIHS examined 10 years of crash data from NHTSA.

 
Motor vehicle crashes

2017: Traffic fatalities were 1 percent lower in the first six months of 2017, compared with the same period in 2016, according to preliminary estimates from the National Safety Council (NSC). The organization says the decline comes after the steepest estimated two-year increase in traffic deaths since 1964. In addition, the first six months' tally for 2017 is 8 percent higher than the same period in 2015.

2016: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that 37,461 people died in motor vehicle crashes in 2016, up 5.6 percent from 35,485 in 2015. According to NHTSA, distracted and drowsy driving deaths fell in 2016, but deaths involving other reckless behavior, such as speeding, alcohol impairment, and not wearing seatbelts continued to increase. The fatality rate, measured as deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, rose to 1.18 in 2016, from 1.15 in 2015.

 
Motor Vehicle Crashes, 2006-2015

Year Fatal Injury Property damage only Total crashes
2006 38,648 1,746,000 4,189,000 5,973,000
2007 37,435 1,711,000 4,275,000 6,024,000
2008 34,172 1,630,000 4,146,000 5,811,000
2009 30,862 1,517,000 3,957,000 5,505,000
2010 30,296 1,542,000 3,847,000 5,419,000
2011 29,757 1,530,000 3,778,000 5,338,000
2012 31,006 1,634,000 3,950,000 5,615,000
2013 30,057 1,591,000 4,066,000 5,687,000
2014 30,056 1,648,000 4,387,000 6,064,000
2015 32,166 1,715,000 4,548,000 6,296,000

Source: U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

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Traffic Deaths, 2007-2016

 

Year  Fatalities Annual percent
change
Fatality rate per
100 million vehicle
miles traveled
Fatality rate
per 100,000
registered vehicles
2007 41,259 -3.4% 1.36 16.02
2008 37,423 -9.3 1.26 14.43
2009 33,883 -9.5 1.15 13.08
2010 32,999 -2.6 1.11 12.82
2011 32,479 -1.6 1.10 12.25
2012 33,782 4.0 1.14 12.72
2013 32,894 -2.6 1.10 12.21
2014 32,744 -0.5 1.08 11.92
2015 35,485 8.4 1.15 12.47
2016 37,461 5.6 1.18 NA

NA=Data not available.

Source: U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

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  • In 2016 distracted driving deaths fell 2.2 percent from 2015 and drowsy driving deaths fell 3.5 percent.
  • There were increases in 2016 for unrestrained passenger vehicle occupants (4.6 percent), speed related fatalities (4.0 percent) and alcohol-impaired driving fatalities (1.7 percent).

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, vehicle occupants accounted for 66 percent of traffic deaths in 2015. Motorcycle riders accounted for 14 percent. Pedestrians accounted for another 15 percent; pedalcyclists, bus and other nonoccupants accounted for the remainder.

 
Motor Vehicle Traffic Deaths By State, 2015-2016

 

  Number of deaths     Number of deaths  
State 2015 2016 Percent
change
State 2015 2016 Percent
change
Alabama 850 1,038 22.1% Montana 224 190 -15.2%
Alaska 65 84 29.2 Nebraska 246 218 -11.4
Arizona 897 962 7.2 Nevada 326 328 0.6
Arkansas 550 545 -0.9 New Hampshire 114 136 19.3
California 3,387 3,623 7.0 New Jersey 561 601 7.1
Colorado 547 608 11.2 New Mexico 298 402 34.9
Connecticut 270 293 8.5 New York 1,136 1,025 -9.8
Delaware 131 119 -9.2 North Carolina 1,379 1,450 5.1
D.C. 23 27 17.4 North Dakota 131 113 -13.7
Florida 2,938 3,174 8.0 Ohio 1,110 1,132 2.0
Georgia 1,432 1,554 8.5 Oklahoma 645 683 5.9
Hawaii 93 120 29.0 Oregon 446 495 11.0
Idaho 216 253 17.1 Pennsylvania 1,200 1,188 -1.0
Illinois 998 1,082 8.4 Rhode Island 45 51 13.3
Indiana 817 821 0.5 South Carolina 979 1,015 3.7
Iowa 320 404 26.3 South Dakota 134 116 -13.4
Kansas 355 429 20.8 Tennessee 962 1,041 8.2
Kentucky 761 834 9.6 Texas 3,582 3,776 5.4
Louisiana 752 757 0.7 Utah 278 281 1.1
Maine 156 161 3.2 Vermont 57 62 8.8
Maryland 520 505 -2.9 Virginia 754 760 0.8
Massachusetts 345 389 12.8 Washington 551 537 -2.5
Michigan 967 1,064 10.0 West Virginia 268 269 0.4
Minnesota 411 392 -4.6 Wisconsin 566 607 7.2
Mississippi 677 690 1.9 Wyoming 145 112 -22.8
Missouri 870 945 8.6 United States 35,485 37,461 5.6%

Source: U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

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Drivers In Motor Vehicle Crashes By Age, 2015

Age group Number of
licensed drivers
Percent of
total
Drivers in
fatal crashes
Involvement
rate (1)
Drivers in
all crashes
Involvement
rate (1)
16 to 20 11,814,959 5.4% 4,214 35.86 1,381,000 11,755
21 to 24 14,406,138 6.6 4,942 34.30 1,261,000 8,751
25 to 34 38,385,563 17.6 9,860 25.69 2,435,000 6,343
35 to 44 36,194,823 16.6 7,675 21.20 1,897,000 5,240
45 to 54 39,475,801 18.1 7,852 19.89 1,694,000 4,291
55 to 64 37,715,222 17.3 6,453 17.11 1,366,000 3,622
65 to 74 25,020,638 11.5 3,767 15.06 705,000 2,818
Over 74 15,071,321 6.9 2,723 18.07 378,000 2,505
Total 218,084,465 100.0% 48,613 (2) 22.29 11,251,000 (2) 5,159

(1) Per 100,000 licensed drivers.
(2) Includes drivers under the age of 16 and of unknown age.

Source: U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration; Federal Highway Administration.

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Motor Vehicle Deaths Per 100,000 Persons By Age, 2015

Source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

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Sex Of Drivers Involved In Crashes, 2006-2015 (1)

 

  Fatal crashes Injury crashes
  Male Female Male Female
Year Number Rate (2) Number Rate (2) Number Rate (2) Number Rate (2)
2006 41,912 41.49 14,661 14.43 1,762,552 1,745 1,387,324 1,366
2007 40,804 39.82 14,099 13.65 1,719,000 1,677 1,339,000 1,296
2008 36,881 35.59 12,568 12.00 1,609,000 1,553 1,280,000 1,223
2009 32,807 31.47 11,825 11.22 1,499,561 1,438 1,224,613 1,162
2010 31,965 30.63 11,811 11.17 1,516,000 1,453 1,265,000 1,196
2011 31,809 30.32 11,209 10.48 1,507,000 1,436 1,244,000 1,163
2012 33,124 31.55 11,509 10.77 1,634,884 1,557 1,314,534 1,230
2013 32,442 30.89 11,364 10.61 1,584,000 1,509 1,331,000 1,242
2014 32,572 30.76 11,258 10.41 1,659,000 1,567 1,351,000 1,249
2015 35,472 32.95 12,220 11.07 1,747,000 1,623 1,424,000 1,289
  Property damage-only crashes Total crashes
  Male Female Male Female
Year Number Rate (2) Number Rate (2) Number Rate (2) Number Rate (2)
2006 4,232,184 4,190 2,967,964 2,922 6,036,648 5,976 4,369,949 4,302
2007 4,345,000 4,241 3,066,000 2,968 6,105,000 5,968 4,418,000 4,278
2008 4,174,000 4,028 2,967,000 2,834 5,820,000 5,617 4,260,000 4,069
2009 3,913,473 3,753 2,931,260 2,782 5,445,840 5,223 4,167,698 3,956
2010 3,854,000 3,693 2,862,000 2,707 5,402,000 5,176 4,139,000 3,915
2011 3,675,000 3,503 2,921,000 2,730 5,213,000 4,970 4,176,000 3,904
2012 3,880,163 3,696 3,006,762 3,251 5,548,171 5,285 4,332,806 4,056
2013 3,990,000 3,800 3,092,000 2,886 5,607,000 5,340 4,434,000 4,138
2014 4,383,000 4,139 3,335,000 3,082 6,075,000 5,736 4,697,000 4,342
2015 4,608,000 4,280 3,425,000 3,101 6,390,000 5,936 4,862,000 4,401

(1) Includes motorcycle riders and restricted and graduated drivers license holders in some states.
(2) Rate per 100,000 licensed drivers.

Source: U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

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Driving Behaviors Reported For Drivers And Motorcycle Operators Involved In Fatal Crashes, 2015

Behavior Number of drivers Percent
Driving too fast for conditions or in excess of posted speed limit or racing 8,778 18.1%
Under the influence of alcohol, drugs or medication 5,399 11.1
Failure to yield right of way 3,453 7.1
Failure to keep in proper lane or running off road 3,365 6.9
Distracted (phone, talking, eating, etc.) 3,263 6.7
Operating vehicle in a careless manner 2,606 5.4
Failure to obey traffic signs, signals or officer 1,908 3.9
Overcorrecting/oversteering 1,839 3.8
Operating vehicle in erratic, reckless, or negligent manner 1,755 3.6
Vision obscured (rain, snow, glare, lights, buildings, trees, etc.) 1,601 3.3
Swerving or avoiding due to wind, slippery surface, other
vehicle, object, nonmotorist in roadway, etc.
1,457 3.0
Drowsy, asleep, fatigued, ill, or blacked out 1,268 2.6
Driving wrong way in one-way traffic or on wrong side of road 1,064 2.2
Making improper turn 951 2.0
Other factors 5,649 11.6
None reported 14,812 30.5
Unknown 7,139 14.7
Total drivers (1) 48,613 100.0%

(1) The sum of percentages is greater than total drivers as more than one factor may be present for the same driver.

Source: U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

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Crashes By First Harmful Event, Type Of Collision And Crash Severity, 2014

 

  Crash severity    
  Fatal Injury Property damage only Total crashes
Type of collision Number Percent of
total fatal
crashes
Number Percent of
total injury
crashes
Number Percent of
total property
damage only
crashes
Number Percent of
total
crashes
Collision with moving motor vehicle              
Angle 5,247 17.5% 438,000 26.6% 843,000 19.2% 1,286,000 21.2%
Rear end 1,966 6.6 522,000 31.7 1,442,000 32.9 1,966,000 32.4
Sideswipe 810 2.7 100,000 6.0 612,000 13.9 712,000 11.7
Head on 2,866 9.6 62,000 3.8 76,000 1.7 141,000 2.3
Other/unknown 123 0.4 9,000 0.6 92,000 2.1 102,000 1.7
     Total 11,012 36.7% 1,130,000 68.6% 3,066,000 69.9% 4,207,000 69.4%
Collision with fixed object                
Pole/post 1,282 4.3 51,000 3.1 134,000 3.0 186,000 3.1
Culvert/curb/ditch 2,435 8.1 61,000 3.7 126,000 2.9 190,000 3.1
Shrubbery/tree 2,347 7.8 37,000 2.3 68,000 1.5 107,000 1.8
Guard rail 872 2.9 28,000 1.7 76,000 1.7 106,000 1.7
Embankment 918 3.1 18,000 1.1 25,000 0.6 44,000 0.7
Bridge 201 0.7 4,000 0.2 10,000 0.2 14,000 0.2
Other/unknown 1,685 5.6 66,000 4.0 192,000 4.4 260,000 4.3
     Total 9,740 32.5% 266,000 16.1% 630,000 14.4% 906,000 14.9%
Collision with object, not fixed                
Parked motor vehicle 316 1.1 51,000 3.1 309,000 7.0 360,000 5.9
Animal 158 0.5 12,000 0.7 254,000 5.8 266,000 4.4
Pedestrian 4,519 15.1 58,000 3.5 3,000 0.1 65,000 1.1
Pedalcyclist 716 2.4 50,000 3.0 6,000 0.1 56,000 0.9
Train 124 0.4 (1) (1) 1,000 (1) 1,000 (1)
Other/unknown 367 1.2 12,000 0.7 65,000 1.5 77,000 1.3
     Total 6,200 20.7% 182,000 11.1% 637,000 14.4% 826,000 13.6%
Noncollision                
Rollover 2,664 8.9 64,000 3.9 36,000 0.8 102,000 1.7
Other/unknown 343 1.1 6,000 0.4 17,000 0.4 23,000 0.4
     Total 3,007 10.0 69,000 4.2 54,000 1.2 126,000 2.1
Total 29,989(2) 100.0% 1,648,000 100.0% 4,387,000 100.0% 6,064,000 100.0%

(1) Less than 500 or  0.05 percent.
(2) Includes 16 crashes with unknown first harmful events.

Source: U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

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Motor vehicle crashes by time of year

Traffic fatalities spike during different periods.

  • In 2014 October had the most fatal crashes, February had the least, according to data from theNational Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
  • The beginning of daylight savings is linked to an increase in auto accidents, according to an analysis by the University of British Columbia and a study by researchers at John Hopkins and Stanford University.
  • Holidays are generally a time of increased travel. In 2014, Thanksgiving Day was the holiday period with the most motor vehicle deaths (403), followed by Labor Day (362), Christmas Day (355), Independence Day (347), Memorial Day (337) and New Year’s Day (126). See chart below.
  • Fifty more people on average die in traffic crashes during Thanksgiving week than during other weeks of the year, according to a University of Alabama study. Speeding, alcohol, time of day and weather, factors that affect crashes all year, are exaggerated during the holiday.
  • In 2013, about 50 percent of fatal crashes occurred on Friday, Saturday or Sunday, according to NHTSA.

 
Holiday Driving, 2010-2014

 

  Holiday period (1)
  New Year’s Day Memorial Day Independence Day Labor Day Thanksgiving Day Christmas Day
Year Deaths (2) Percent alcohol- impaired (3) Deaths (2) Percent alcohol- impaired (3) Deaths (2) Percent alcohol- impaired (3) Deaths (2) Percent alcohol- impaired (3) Deaths (2) Percent alcohol- impaired (3) Deaths (2) Percent alcohol- impaired (3)
2010 286 (3) 48% 389 (3) 40% 365 (3) 38% 390 (3) 35% 417 (4) 40% 249 (3) 35%
2011 304 (3) 43 389 (3) 40 405 (3) 37 373 (3) 37 375 (4) 32 256 (3) 36
2012 348 (3) 39 367 (3) 44 157 (1) 45 378 (3) 38 405 (4) 41 351 (4) 35
2013 343 (4) 44 334 (3) 38 461 (4) 39 371 (3) 38 360 (4) 33 88 (1) 37
2014 126 (1) NA 337 (3) NA 347 (3) NA 362 (3) NA 403 (4) NA 355 (4) NA

(1) The length of the holiday period depends on the day of the week on which the holiday falls. Memorial Day and Labor Day are always 3.25 days; Thanksgiving is always 4.25 days; and New Year’s Day, Independence Day, and Christmas are 3.25 days if the holiday falls on Friday through Monday, 4.25 days if on Tuesday or Thursday, and 1.25 days if on Wednesday.
(2) Number in parentheses refers to the number of whole days in the holiday period.
(3) The highest blood alcohol concentration (BAC) among drivers or motorcycle riders involved in the crash was 0.08 grams per deciliter (g/dL) or higher (the legal definition of drunk driving).

NA=Data not available.

Source: National Safety Council based on National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data.

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Motor Vehicle Crash Deaths By Month, 2015

 

Month Deaths Percent of total Rank
January 2,573 7% 11
February 2,153 6 12
March 2,609 7 10
April 2,642 8 9
May 3,113 9 5
June 3,010 9 7
July 3,266 9 3
August 3,319 9 1
September 3,123 9 4
October 3,271 9 2
November 2,954 8 8
December 3,059 9 6
Total 35,092 100  

Source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, based on an analysis of data from the U.S. Department of Transportation's Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS).

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Distracted driving

Activities that take drivers’ attention off the road, including talking or texting on cellphones, eating, conversing with passengers and other distractions, are a major safety threat. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gauges distracted driving by collecting data on distraction-affected crashes,  which focus on distractions that are most likely to affect crash involvement such as dialing a cellphone or texting and being distracted by another person or an outside event. In 2015, 3,477 people were killed in distraction-affected crashes, and 391,000 people were injured. There were 3,196 distraction-affected fatal crashes, accounting for 10 percent of all fatal crashes in the nation, 15 percent of injury crashes and 14 percent of all motor vehicle crashes in 2015.

However, texting bans may not reduce crash rates, according to a Highway Loss Data Institute 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 states, except Washington, where the change was statistically insignificant.

Teen girls are twice as likely as teen boys to use cell phones and other electronic devices while driving, according to a March, 2012 study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

 
Fatal Crashes Affected By Distracted Drivers, 2015

  Crashes Drivers Fatalities
Total fatal crashes 32,166 48,613 35,092
Distracted-affected fatal crashes      
Number of distracted-affected fatal crashes 3,196 3,263 3,477
Percent of total fatal crashes 10% 7% 10%
Cellphone in use in distracted-affected
fatal crashes
   
Number of cellphone distracted-affected fatal crashes 442 456 476
Percent of fatal distracted-affected crashes 14% 14% 14%

Source: U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

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  • Distraction was a factor in 10 percent of fatal crashes reported in 2015.
  • Cellphone use was a factor in 14 percent of all fatal distracted-affected crashes, but in only 1 percent of the 32,166 fatal crashes reported in 2015.

 
Pedestrian accidents

Pedestrians struck by cars are most often hit while in the crosswalk with the signal on their side, according to an analysis of pedestrian injuries treated at Bellevue Hospital Center in New York City. About 8 percent of the injured pedestrians were hurt while using an electronic device, according to the study. The study, which is highlighted in an April 2013 New York Times article, also looked at bicycle injuries. The study was published in the Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery. In 2010, 4,280 pedestrians died.

In 2015, 5,376 pedestrians were killed in motor vehicle crashes in the United States, according to NHTSA. 2015 pedestrian fatalities rose 9.5 percent from 2014 to the highest number since 1996. An additional 70,000 pedestrians were injured in motor vehicle crashes in 2015. On average, a pedestrian was killed every 1.6 hours in the United States and injured every 7.5 minutes in 2015. In 2015 pedestrian deaths accounted for 15 percent of all traffic fatalities.

In 2015, 34 percent of fatally injured pedestrians had a blood-alcohol content (BAC) of 0.1 percent or higher.

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