Car Accident Statistics you Need to Know in 2021

Every year, millions of people die in road traffic accidents. For instance, the World Health Organization (WHO) reports that 1.35 million people die in car accidents per annum globally. 

In the United States, about 38,000 people die every year in automobile crashes. Many of these accidents are avoidable, and are often a result of driver behavior like drunk-driving, speeding, using the cellphone while driving, and driving in precarious weather conditions.  

This article uses statistics to tell the story of road traffic accidents. Considering that numbers don’t lie, we hope that when we know what causes the accidents we will all play our part in ensuring that we are part of the solution that will make our roads safe places for all users. 

Quick Car Accident Statistics

To give you a general idea of the rate of accidents, we start by looking at some quick accident statistics: 

Total Number of Car Accidents per Year in the U.S. 

The roads in the United States are some of the busiest in the world. The country has an estimated 280 million vehicles and more than 227.5 million drivers


On average, there are over 6 million passenger car accidents in the U.S. every year. Road crashes are the leading cause of death in the country, resulting in more than 38,000 people losing their lives each year.  

U.S. States Where Most Car Accidents Happen

Different states in the U.S. experience car accidents at different rates. This can be attributed to the fact that diverse states have different demographics, traffic laws, weather, travel speeds, and topography.

Texas had the highest number of fatal accidents in 2018. Estimates indicated that a person was killed in a collision in the state every two hours. It is also estimated that 28% of all accidents in the state are caused by drunk driving. 

You can check the detailed car accident statistics by state here

All Road Users are Affected 

Road accidents do not only harm drivers, but also their passengers and pedestrians. With improving technology and awareness campaigns, you would be surprised that cyclists and pedestrians are still dying at high rates.   

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA), 2018 saw the highest number of pedestrian and cyclist deaths since 1990. An estimated 96% of the time, in collisions between large trucks and passenger vehicles, the passenger vehicle occupants were killed.

The statistics above show that it is not just the driver who is in danger when an accident occurs. Everyone who uses the road, whether inside or outside the car, is at risk. It also illustrates the importance of targeting all road users when designing measures to mitigate car accidents. 

Car Accidents by Age and Sex

A driver’s age and sex also appear to affect their chances of being in a road accident. For instance, according to the World Health Organization, injuries from road accidents are the leading cause of death in children and adults aged 5 to 29 years. 

In the U.S., drivers within the age range of 16 to 20 years have the highest fatal crashes involvement of 34 per 100,000 licensed drivers, despite making up the smallest percentage of licensed drivers. The average rate for all age groups is 12 per 100,000.

Based on available data, from 2009 to 2018, men are three times more likely to be involved in fatal crashes than women. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “in 2018, almost 2,500 teens in the United States aged 13–19 were killed, and about 285,000 were treated in emergency departments for injuries suffered in motor vehicle crashes.” 

Most Common Causes of Fatal Accidents Among Teenagers

Several factors can contribute to a driver’s chances of being in a car accident. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identifies the leading factors for car accidents among teenagers:  

Group of teenagers in a car

Inexperience: When compared to older drivers, teens are more likely to downplay dangerous situations.

Nighttime and weekend driving: Figures from 2018 show that 52% of motor vehicle crash deaths involving teenagers took place on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Out of these accidents, 37% happened between 9pm and 6am.

Experts often identify other factors, including speeding, alcohol use, distracted driving, and failure to obey traffic laws.

Accidents by Time

Perhaps due to changing visibility, fatigue, and other such factors, certain times of the day are peak periods when crashes are more likely to happen. 

For instance, in 2018, Saturdays were the week’s peak day for fatal crashes, while Fridays were the peak day of the week for non-fatal crashes. The period between 4pm and 7:59pm is the peak time of the day for both fatal and non-fatal car crashes. 

Accidents by Driver Behavior

One of the most critical factors contributing to car accidents is the behavior of the driver. While bad road conditions and the weather can contribute to car accidents, the reality is that the way a driver reacts to these conditions has a bearing on whether the accidents occur or not.

Speeding is the number one cause of fatal crashes, according to the NHTSA. For over two decades, nearly one-third of all road vehicle accidents resulted from speeding. 

Alcohol, drugs, or medication contribute to about 10% of fatal crashes. Failure to stay in the right lane and failure to yield the right of way, account for 14% of fatal crashes.

Ever since the introduction of mobiles phones, distracted driving has become a massive focus for experts looking into car crashes. Distracted driving behavior, such as using a mobile phone to talk or send a message while driving, contributes to about 5% of fatal crashes

Drowsy driving (feeling sleepy or falling asleep at the wheel) is also a significant cause of fatal road crashes. The NHTSA estimates that this factor was responsible for 795 deaths in 2017

Weather-Related Car Accidents

The weather has a significant effect on the chances of car accidents happening. For example, about 17% of car crashes occur during the winter. Weather-related car accidents kill more people in a year than large-scale weather disasters. 

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) reports that about 22% of the 6 million crashes in the U.S. every year are weather-related. 

Single and Multiple Vehicle Crashes

Among motorcyclist deaths, around 37% are due to single-vehicle crashes, while multiple-vehicle crashes account for the remaining 63%. However, statistics show that driver death rates in single-vehicle rollover crashes have declined in the last four decades.

Roughly, 85% of fatalities from rollover crashes resulted from single-vehicle crashes. In multiple-vehicle crashes involving a passenger vehicle and a large truck, the passenger vehicles’ occupants are killed around 96% of the time

Lives Saved by Safety Devices

There are several safety measures that reduce the risk of getting badly injured or killed in a motor vehicle accident; for instance, wearing a helmet when riding a motorcycle can reduce fatalities by 37% and the risk of injury by 69%.

Seat belts constitute one of the most effective ways of reducing fatalities. For instance, the CDC reports that “among drivers and front-seat passengers, seat belts reduce the risk of death by 45%, and cut the risk of serious injury by 50%.” What this shows is that uncomfortable as it could sometimes be, the seat belt does save lives.  

Cost of Road Accidents

Road accidents do not only lead to a loss of life, but also damage to property. The economic implication of road accidents in the U.S. can be as high as $800 billion a year

The Lancet, a weekly peer-reviewed general medical journal, estimates that the world is set to lose $1.8 trillion to road accidents between 2015 and 2030.

Global Car Accident Statistics

Approximately 3,700 people die every day in road accidents worldwide, making a total of 1.35 million deaths globally in a year. Between 20 and 50 million people every year suffer non-fatal injuries resulting from car accidents.  

At the receiving end of most of these deaths are pedestrians and cyclists, with more than half of all road traffic deaths globally being pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcyclists. 

Despite owning only 60% of all the vehicles globally, low- and middle-income countries suffer 93% of the world’s road traffic fatalities. The WHO reports that “road traffic crashes cost most countries 3% of their gross domestic product (GDP).” 

Trends and Future Forecasts

The world has become reliant on technology for much of its activities, and driving is no exception. A report by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), a multinational professional services network of firms, focuses on trends that are transforming the automotive industry.

One of the trends expected to impact car accidents across the world is the development of transportation that is both “autonomous” and “shared.” This development is projected to reduce the world’s automobile inventory by around 25%, thereby making the roads a little safer for everybody. 


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