fatal car crash statistics

Odds of Dying in a Car Crash

Every year, tens of thousands of people across the U.S. are killed in automobile accidents. Some of these accidents can be attributed to distraction, negligence, or impairment. Others are unavoidable. All of them have one thing in common: they result in a tragic and irredeemable loss of life.

Most drivers are aware of the hypothetical dangers of driving, and the risk of dying in a car crash, but relatively few have been confronted with the concrete statistics that reveal just how big a risk you take every time you get behind the wheel. Car accident lawyers, like the veteran trial attorneys at Stoy Law Group, are all too familiar with these statistics.

To help put things in perspective, we’ve compiled an in-depth analysis of automotive mortality rates. The purpose of this analysis is to note the odds that all drivers face of being involved in a fatal accident, as well as highlight key factors and behaviors that influence those odds.

What Are the Odds of Dying in a Car Crash?

As illuminated in a 2019 report from the National Safety Council, the lifetime odds of an American dying in a car wreck are roughly 1 in 107. That means that every person in the country with a driver’s license and a functional vehicle has about a 0.91% chance of ending up as a victim of a driving-related accident.

These odds are calculated using a number of crucial data points—including the total number of vehicular deaths, the current national population, and the average life expectancy of driving-age individuals across various demographics—and are considered to be highly accurate and reliable in terms of predictive modeling.

By comparison, the odds of dying in a slip and fall accident are approximately 1 in 106, while the odds of succumbing to an opioid overdose are 1 in 92 and the odds of dying by suicide are a troubling 1 in 88. Heart disease and cancer remain the leading causes of death among Americans, carrying odds of 1 in 6 and 1 in 7, respectively.

Although driving is undoubtedly an inherently dangerous activity, it’s a somewhat less immediate threat than many of the perils that loom over peoples’ day-to-day lives. 

Regardless, these figures underscore the importance of adopting safe driving practices to mitigate controllable risks—risks that will prove disastrous for some 1 in 107 Americans.

Factors That Affect Your Chances of Dying in a Car Crash

Every time you grab your keys and head out the door, you’re putting your life on the line.

That said, certain conditions, circumstances, and behaviors can impact your survivability more than others, for better or for worse. Here are a few of the factors that might make you more likely to become a statistic.

Driving Frequency

Basic probability dictates that the more you drive, the greater your chances of being in a serious accident. And that’s only one determinant of increased risk—it doesn’t take into account any of the other elements presented here.

While driving is a practical necessity for many people, there are ways you can reduce the potential for harm. For example, limit extraneous trips and employ defensive driving strategies when you do go out. Whenever possible, schedule your errands for times when traffic tends to be less hectic, like early in the morning or after the evening rush.

Irresponsible Driving Habits

The overall likelihood of car accidents, both fatal and non-fatal, increases tremendously when negligence and technological distractions are introduced to the equation. By some estimates, as much as 40% of all automobile accidents are caused by distracted or inattentive driving.

The best way to prevent these sorts of incidents is to put your devices away and focus on operating and maneuvering your vehicle at all times. It also pays to be observant of what’s going on around you, maintain a safe distance between yourself and other drivers, and limit attention-stealing conversations with your passengers.

Gender

In 2012, The U.S. Department of Transportation put out an eye-opening report that contained statistics showing that men are more than twice as likely to die in automotive accidents than women.

The primary reason for this startling discrepancy is that the average male driver racks up many more miles per year than the average female driver. 

It’s also well-documented, however, that men have more of a tendency to exhibit reckless behaviors such as speeding, driving impaired, and neglecting to wear seatbelts, which goes to show just how much the first two factors contribute to the odds of roadway fatalities.

Intoxication

The mind-altering effects of alcohol, drugs, and certain prescription medications can seriously degrade your driving skills. All three types of intoxicants have been known to reduce users’ visual acuity, slow their reaction time, alter their perceptions of events, and erode their capacities for judgment and critical thinking.

It should come as no surprise, then, that these substances are at least partially responsible for over 30% of fatal single-vehicle accidents and close to 15% of fatal multiple-vehicle accidents.

To avoid adding to either of these percentages, only take legally-prescribed medications as directed by your doctor and refrain from using alcohol or recreational drugs before driving (or altogether).

Speed

Speeding is often lumped in with other irresponsible driving habits. Because it plays such a central role in motor vehicle mortality, however, we felt it deserved special mention, especially when you consider the fact that it’s possible to follow all the other rules of the road to the letter and still drive too fast.

Aside from distracted driving, excessive speed is perhaps the single biggest contributor to automotive deaths. Your probability of causing a fatal accident increases by 4% for every 1% that you increase your speed while driving.  

In fact, past reports from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration have identified speeding as the number-one factor in over 25% of traffic fatalities.

The lesson here is simple: watch your speed. Speed limits exist for a reason. When they’re ignored, people get hurt.

What Percentage of Car Accidents Are Fatal?

According to the NSC, 0.91% of the 13.5 million automobile wrecks that occur yearly in the U.S. have lethal consequences.

A mortality rate of less than one percent may not sound too dire, but the reality is that one percent represents 39,000 lives lost every year, or around 12 deaths for every 100,000 drivers on the road in a given area. 

That’s far more than the number of people killed by gun violence, drowning, or housefires in an ordinary calendar year.

As if that weren’t bad enough, 4.1 million more crashes result in moderate to severe injuries that require medical intervention. Such injuries can easily turn deadly if not treated sufficiently and immediately, and many do. Even the ones that don’t can leave unfortunate victims suffering from life-altering injuries like broken bones, traumatic head injuries, nerve damage, and paralysis.

Odds of Dying in a Car Crash Per Year

The odds of dying in a car accident are not fixed. They change year to year and month to month based on factors as varied as, and the number of cars on the road. And evidence suggests that they could be changing for the better.

Here’s the silver lining to all these stats: the number of fatal car wrecks recorded annually throughout the U.S. seems to be on the decline. 2019, the last data collection period for NSC and NHTSA, saw significant decreases in most traffic safety categories from the preceding year, including major ones like:

  • Passenger vehicle occupant fatalities (630 fewer deaths, a 2.8% decrease)
  • Alcohol-impaired driving fatalities (568 fewer deaths, a 5.3% decrease)
  • Pedestrian fatalities (169 fewer deaths, a 2.7% decrease)
  • Pedalcyclist fatalities (25 fewer deaths, a 2.9% decrease)

There are several possible explanations for this trend. One is that vehicles are getting safer, a conclusion supported by recent NHTSA automotive safety analyses

The other is that more and more drivers are becoming conscious of the threats posed by distracted and impaired driving, not to mention the increasingly severe legal penalties awaiting those who are caught and charged for such crimes.

Either way, it’s a positive development that hopefully foreshadows a continual reduction of unnecessary deaths in the future.

What to Do if You’ve Been in an Accident

Car wrecks don’t have to be fatal to completely upend your life. If you’ve been injured in an accident through no fault of your own, you’re no doubt wondering what your next step should be.

Fortunately, there’s no need to take it alone.

The personal injury lawyers at Warriors for Justice have decades of combined experience righting wrongs committed on the road. If you’ve got a strong claim of liability against another party, we’re confident that we can win your case and get you the restitution you deserve.

Give us a call today at (817) 820-0100 or fill out an online case evaluation form to schedule a free consultation with one of our decorated attorneys. Let’s work together to build a safer, more accountable society.