Speeding and drunk driving cause a combined 60 percent of traffic fatalities in the U.S.
Although most of us drive every day, we don’t always think about the possible consequences of doing so. In worst-case scenarios, a motor vehicle crash can lead to property damage, injury, and even death. Fortunately, traffic fatalities are rare, but actions like drinking and driving, distracted driving, and speeding make them more likely. While 2023 data is not yet available, let’s take a look at the most recent statistics about car crashes in the United States.
Year over year, from 1960 to 2021, the number of traffic fatalities increased by 1 percent on average. In 2021, the most recent year for which data is available from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, there were 42,915 traffic fatalities in the U.S., an 11 percent increase from 2020.1
Why so high? Part of the reason is the decreased driving in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As national stay-at-home orders were lifted and people got back behind the wheel in 2021, there were more cars on the road, and with them, more driving fatalities.
According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), the state of Texas had the highest number of traffic fatalities in 2020, with a total of 3,874.2 On average, 761 people died in car accidents in each state in 2020. Of course, these numbers don’t take into account the number of licensed drivers per state, just the total number of traffic deaths.
|State||Number of traffic fatalities in 2019||Number of traffic fatalities in 2020|
|District of Columbia||23||36|
Passenger vehicles were involved in 39 percent of fatal crashes in 2020, while light trucks were involved in 38 percent. The most common type of passenger car involved in fatal crashes was a four-door hardtop sedan, while the most common light truck type was a light pickup.
Much like the number of traffic fatalities, this data does not take into account how many of each vehicle type are on the road, so it doesn’t necessarily indicate that these vehicle types are more dangerous than others.
|Type of vehicle||Body type||Number of vehicles involved in fatal crashes in the U.S. in 2020||Percent|
|Passenger car||All passenger cars||20,868||39%|
|Passenger car||2-door sedan, hardtop, coupe||1,821||3%|
|Passenger car||3-door/2-door hatchback||496||1%|
|Passenger car||4-door sedan, hardtop||14,822||27%|
|Passenger car||5-door/4-door hatchback||1,020||2%|
|Passenger car||Station wagon||2,149||4%|
|Passenger car||Sedan/hardtop, doors unknown||22||Less than 1%|
|Passenger car||Other or unknown automobile type||78||Less than 1%|
|Passenger car||Auto-based pickup||10||Less than 1%|
|Passenger car||Auto-based panel||1||Less than 1%|
|Passenger car||3-door coupe||10||Less than 1%|
|Light truck||All light trucks||20,566||38%|
|Light truck||Compact utility||7,134||13%|
|Light truck||Large utility||2,517||5%|
|Light truck||Utility station wagon||258||1%|
|Light truck||Utility, unknown body type||4||Less than 1%|
|Light truck||Large van (includes van-based buses)||509||1%|
|Light truck||Step van (GVWR less than or equal to 10,000 lbs)||4||Less than 1%|
|Light truck||Other van type||2||Less than 1%|
|Light truck||Unknown van type||2||Less than 1%|
|Light truck||Light pickup||8,779||16%|
|Light truck||Unknown pickup style||10||Less than 1%|
|Light truck||Cab chassis-based light truck||7||Less than 1%|
|Light truck||Other conventional light truck||1||Less than 1%|
|Light truck||Unknown light truck type||4||Less than 1%|
|Light truck||Unknown light vehicle type||50||Less than 1%|
|Light truck||Unknown truck type (light, medium, heavy) with no trailing unit||2||Less than 1%|
|Large truck||All large trucks||4,842||9%|
|Large truck||Step van (GVWR greater than 10,000 lbs)||18||Less than 1%|
|Large truck||Single-unit truck (GVWR range 10,001 to 19,500 lbs)||543||1%|
|Large truck||Single-unit truck (GVWR range 19,501 to 26,000 lbs)||290||1%|
|Large truck||Single-unit truck (GVWR greater than 26,000 lbs)||629||1%|
|Large truck||Single-unit truck (GVWR unknown)||1||Less than 1%|
|Large truck||Truck tractor||2,858||5%|
|Large truck||Medium/heavy pickup (GVWR greater than 10,000 lbs)||481||1%|
|Large truck||Unknown medium truck (GVWR range 10,001 to 26,000 lbs)||1||Less than 1%|
|Large truck||Unknown medium/heavy truck type||21||Less than 1%|
|Motorcycle||Two-wheel motorcycle (excluding motor scooters)||5,129||10%|
|Motorcycle||Moped or motorized bicycle||61||Less than 1%|
|Motorcycle||Three-wheel motorcycle (two rear wheels)||59||Less than 1%|
|Motorcycle||Off-road motorcycle||118||Less than 1%|
|Motorcycle||Unenclosed three-wheel motorcycle/unenclosed autocycle (one rear wheel)||38||Less than 1%|
|Motorcycle||Other motorcycle type (minibikes, pocket motorcycles)||11||Less than 1%|
|Motorcycle||Unknown motorcycle type||47||Less than 1%|
|Bus||All buses||156||Less than 1%|
|Bus||School bus||46||Less than 1%|
|Bus||Cross country/intercity bus||9||Less than 1%|
|Bus||Transit bus||86||Less than 1%|
|Bus||Van-based bus (GVWR greater than 10,000 lbs)||3||Less than 1%|
|Bus||Other bus type||11||Less than 1%|
|Bus||Unknown bus type||1||Less than 1%|
|Other||All other vehicles||751||1%|
|Other||Large limousine||1||Less than 1%|
|Other||Light truck-based motorhome||2||Less than 1%|
|Other||Medium/heavy truck-based motorhome||27||Less than 1%|
|Other||All-terrain vehicle/all-terrain cycle||344||1%|
|Other||Snowmobile||7||Less than 1%|
|Other||Farm equipment except trucks||93||Less than 1%|
|Other||Construction equipment except trucks||9||Less than 1%|
|Other||Low-speed vehicle/neighborhood electric vehicle||3||Less than 1%|
|Other||Golf cart||19||Less than 1%|
|Other||Recreational off-highway vehicle||217||Less than 1%|
|Other||Other vehicle type||29||Less than 1%|
|Unknown||All unknown vehicle types||1,374||3%|
|Unknown||Unknown body type||1,374||3%|
In 2020, the NHTSA estimated that there were over 4 million people injured in injury-only motor vehicle crashes, meaning they didn’t cause any fatalities or property damage. Seventy percent of the injured people were drivers, while 28 percent were occupants.
Looking at all of the motor vehicle crashes that occurred in 2020, almost 70 percent caused property damage only, 30 percent were injury only, and 1 percent involved fatalities.
Surprisingly, for the crashes in which the manner of the collision was known, the plurality (17 percent) occurred when the motor vehicle was not in transport. In other words, they happened when someone hit a parked car. Fourteen percent of known collisions were rear-ends, while the next most common collision type occurred at an angle, accounting for 12 percent of crashes.
It’s a sad but true fact that every day in the U.S., approximately 32 people die from drunk driving. In 2020, the total number was 11,654 people, a 14 percent increase from 2019.
Across the U.S., about one-third of traffic deaths involve drunk driving, making it one of the most common causes of traffic fatalities. When you’re behind the wheel, make sure your blood alcohol concentration is at zero percent to avoid a fatal drunk-driving accident.
Distracted driving is another common-yet-dangerous practice in the U.S., and it was the cause of 9 percent of fatal crashes in 2020. However, the specific percentage varies from state to state.
|State||Percent of fatal crashes involving distracted driving in 2020, high to low|
|District of Columbia||6%|
In New Mexico, for instance, distracted driving was involved in nearly four out of 10 traffic deaths in 2020. In general, the West has the highest rates of distracted driving-related traffic fatalities, with an average of 12 percent. The Northeast and South, on the other hand, have the lowest rates, at 7 percent each.
The speed limit is just a suggestion, right? Wrong. In 2020, there were 11,256 deaths due to speeding, making up 29 percent of all traffic fatalities.
Speeding is even more dangerous in bad weather. Forty-five percent of speeding-related fatal crashes involved standing or moving water, 42 percent involved ice or frost, and 33 percent involved snow and slush. That means you need to be extra careful in the winter time, especially on holidays, when deadly car crashes soar.
Additionally, statistics show certain demographic groups are more likely to speed than others, which is one of the reasons men pay more for car insurance.
|Age group||Number of speeding male drivers in fatal crashes, 2020||Percentage of total crashes||Number of speeding female drivers in fatal crashes, 2020||Percentage of total crashes||Total number of speeding male and female drivers in fatal crashes, 2020||Percentage of total crashes|
Men made up 84 percent of all speeding drivers in fatal crashes in 2020. Additionally, those between the ages of 25 and 34 made up a third of all speeding drivers who died in crashes the same year. The age group with the lowest rates was senior drivers 75 and older, which we’ll discuss in more detail below.3
Sixty-one percent of people who died in motor vehicle crashes in 2020 were in cars, pickups, or SUVs. Only 17 percent were pedestrians, 14 percent rode motorcycles, and the rest, 2 percent each, were either in large trucks or on bicycles.4
Fifty-six percent of these motor vehicle crash deaths occurred in urban areas, while 43 percent occurred in rural areas.
Teen drivers are a vulnerable driving group due to their lack of experience. In 2020, 2,730 teens died in car crashes; the large majority (1,866, or 68 percent) were male, while the rest were female. In fact, unintentional injuries from accidents, which includes car accidents, were the leading cause of death for teens the same year, killing 5,117 out of every 100,000 persons aged 13 to 19.5
When you combine teen driving with speeding, death rates rise. From 2015 to 2019, 43 percent of teen driving fatalities involved speeding, according to the Governors’ Highway Safety Administration.6
|State||Teen driver speeding-related fatalities 2015-2019, high to low|
|District of Columbia||80%|
Rates were highest in Hawaii, where 83 percent of teen fatalities involved speeding, an amount nearly double the national average.
Contrary to stereotypes, senior drivers are safer on the road than most other groups. According to 2020 NHTSA data, those 55 and older are 85 percent less likely to be involved in traffic accidents compared to the average across all age groups. That increases to 92 percent for people aged 65 to 74 and 125 percent for those 75 and above.
There is a direct correlation between age and involvement in traffic crashes. The older you are, the less likely you are to be involved in a crash, with the highest crash rates among those ages 16 to 20.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), car crashes are the leading cause of work-related deaths in the U.S. From 2011 to 2020, more than 17,000 workers in the U.S. died in motor vehicle crashes. In 2020, the plurality (43 percent) worked in transportation and warehousing.
|Industry||Percentage of work-related motor vehicle deaths in 2020|
|Transportation and warehousing||43%|
|Wholesale and retail trade||9%|
|Administration, support, waste management, and remediation service||6%|
Seat belts are extremely effective in preventing both injuries and deaths in crashes. In the front seat, they reduce passenger deaths by 45 percent and injuries by 50 percent. That means out of the 10,911 passengers who were not wearing their seat belts when they died in car crashes in 2020, 4,946 could have lived had they used these restraints.
Aside from causing property damage, injuries, and deaths, car crashes also cause the cost of car insurance to increase. The cost of car insurance after accidents can rise anywhere from 24 to 59 percent, depending on the provider. The average increase is 42 percent.
Even if the crash wasn’t your fault, your insurance costs could still rise, depending on your provider. However, the increase will be even higher if you caused the car accident.
To learn more about this topic, read our article on teen crash rates, or explore more of our car insurance research. Although these crash rates may seem scary, the majority of accidents are preventable if you drive sober, focused, and under the speed limit.
We used third-party data to compile this report. The third parties included:
Men are more likely than women to get into car accidents — they are involved in 56 percent of crashes compared to 44 percent for women, according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
According to the Federal Highway Administration, over 50 percent of all fatal and injury-only accidents occur near or at intersections.
The deadliest collision while a vehicle is in transport is at an angle. In 2020, 18 percent of fatal motor vehicle collisions occurred at an angle, compared to 10 percent head-on, 7 percent rear-end, and 3 percent sideswipe. This data is from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Of the crashes where the time of day was known, the majority (68 percent) occurred during the day, while 32 percent occurred at night, according to 2020 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data.
Motor Vehicle Safety Data. Bureau of Transportation Statistics. (2022).
Crashes and All Victims. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. (2020).
Motor Vehicle Safety Issues: Speeding. National Safety Council Injury Facts. (2023).
Fatality Facts 2020 Stat by State. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and Highway Loss Data Institute. (2022, May).
Teen Driver and Passenger Safety. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2023).
Teens and Speeding: Breaking the Deadly Cycle. Governors Highway Safety Association. (2021, Jan).