It may seem morbid to keep track of fatal car accidents, but this data is one of the most efficient ways for safety agencies and planners to measure their progress. From 2017 to 2018, for example, fatal motor vehicle crashes went down by 2.4% overall and declined for the second year in a row. The Insurance Information Institute attributes this notable decrease to advances in life-saving safety devices like airbags, seatbelts, child safety seats, and electronic stability control.
How Many Accidents Were There?
The latest car accident statistics available in the United States are from the year 2018. Federal agencies agree the year saw 33,654 fatal motor vehicle crashes, which resulted in 36,560 traffic fatalities.
See how this compares to statistics from the past decade below:
- 37,473 traffic fatalities in 2017
- 37,806 traffic fatalities in 2016
- 35,484 traffic fatalities in 2015
- 32,744 traffic fatalities in 2014
- 32,893 traffic fatalities in 2013
- 33,782 traffic fatalities in 2012
- 32,479 traffic fatalities in 2011
- 32,999 traffic fatalities in 2010
- 33,883 traffic fatalities in 2009
The number of passenger vehicle occupants killed in motor vehicle crashes decreased by 4.1% from 2017, but the number of pedestrian fatalities rose by 3.4% and bicyclist fatalities rose 6.3% from 2017 to 2018. While advances in vehicle safety are saving lives, safety officials still have work to do on behalf of individuals who are not protected by cars or trucks.
Where Did the Accidents Take Place?
In 2018, the majority of fatal traffic accidents took place in Texas, California, and Florida. In our home state of Idaho, there were 212 fatal crashes and 231 deaths. While this may seem small in comparison, the number gets bigger when you consider the relatively small population of Idaho – we have 1,754,208 residents to California’s 39,557,045. In total, Idaho residents experienced 1.3 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled. The United States has a rate of 1.13 deaths per 100 vehicle miles traveled.
Most motor vehicle crash deaths occur in rural areas. Nationwide, 45% of these tragic accidents occurred on rural roadways. In Idaho, 73% of fatalities occurred on rural land.
What Types of Accidents Occurred?
Across the United States, single-vehicle crashes accounted for 53% of fatal accidents. For multi-vehicle accidents, 12,932 people died in head-on (frontal) collisions; 5,350 people were killed by side-impact collisions (T-bone accidents); 1,310 people died in rear-impact or rear-end accidents, and 6,583 people were killed in rollover crashes.
Many rollover crashes (approximately 3,063 in 2018), however, are single-vehicle crashes. Rollovers can happen with or without a pre-crash impact, but a pre-rollover impact is more common, accounting for 72% of rollover accidents. In Idaho, 56% of crashes were single-vehicle accidents, and 44% involved more than one vehicle.
What Caused the Accidents?
Driver behavior caused the majority of fatal motor vehicle accidents in 2017, the last year this data was recorded. Activities like texting while driving, speeding, and driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol caused or contributed to many fatal collisions.
The following behaviors account for a large portion of fatal motor vehicle accidents in 2017:
- Driving too fast for conditions, over the posted speed limit, or racing – 16.9%
- Driving under the influence of drugs, alcohol, and/or medication – 10.5%
- Failure to stay in the proper lane – 7.3%
- Failure to yield the right of way – 7.1%
- Distracted driving – 5.7%
- Operating a vehicle in a careless manner – 5.7%
- Failure to obey traffic signs, signals, or enforcers – 4%
- Operating vehicle in an erratic, reckless, or negligent manner – 3.8%
- Overcorrecting/oversteering – 3.5%
- Vision obscured (by weather or road conditions) – 3%
- Drowsy, ill, or asleep at the wheel – 2.5%
- Driving on the wrong side of the road – 2.3%
- Swerving – 2.1%
- Making improper turns – 1%
Distraction and cell phone use also contributed to many accidents, even when it was not the primary cause. About 9% of fatalities involved distracted driving and 14% of them involved cellphone use, specifically.
Car accident statistics from the past few years are troubling, especially because driver behavior is largely responsible for many fatal collisions. If you’ve been injured in or lost a loved one to a car accident, you know that these numbers are more than just statistics.
Call us at (208) 623-8021 for a free consultation.