Introduction

For the first time in nearly a decade, more than 40,000 people died in motor vehicle crashes in 2016.

Between 1913 and 2016, motor-vehicle deaths per 10,000 registered vehicles decreased 95%, from 33 to 1.5. In 1913, only 1.3 million vehicles were registered, and 4,200 people died on the road. In 2016, 269 million vehicles were registered and 40,327 people died.

In 2016, the mileage death rate of 1.27 per 100 million vehicle miles was up 4.1% from the 2015 rate of 1.22.

Medically consulted injuries in motor vehicle incidents totaled 4.6 million in 2016, and total motor vehicle injury costs were estimated at $416.2 billion. Costs include wage and productivity losses, medical expenses, administrative expenses, motor-vehicle property damage and employer costs.

Motor vehicle deaths increased 6.8% from 2015 to 2016, following a similar increase of 6.7% from 2014 to 2015. Miles traveled increased 2.6%, the number of registered vehicles went up 2% and the population grew 0.5%. As a result, the mileage death rate increased 4.1%, the vehicle death rate rose 4.9% and the population death rate was up 6.2% from 2015 to 2016.

  • Chart
  • Data Table

Compared to 2007, 2016 motor vehicle deaths decreased by about 7%. Mileage, registration and population death rates also were considerably lower in 2016 compared with 2007 (see chart).

2016 motor vehicle crash highlights

Deaths 40,327
Medically consulted injuries 4.6 million
Cost 416.2 billion
Motor vehicle mileage 3.174 billion
Registered vehicles in the United States 269 million
Licensed drivers in the United States 222 million
Death rate per 100 million vehicle miles 1.27
Death rate per 10,000 registered vehicles 1.5
Death rate per 100,000 population 12.48

The National Safety Council and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration count motor vehicle crash deaths using somewhat different criteria. NSC counts total motor vehicle-related fatalities – both traffic and non-traffic – that occur within one year of the crash. This is consistent with the data compiled from death certificates by the National Center for Health Statistics. NSC uses NCHS death certificate data, less intentional fatalities, as the final count of unintentional deaths from all causes.

NHTSA counts only traffic fatalities that occur within 30 days of the crash in its Fatality Analysis Reporting System. This omits about 800 to 1,000 motor vehicle-related deaths each year that occur more than 30 days after the crash. Non-traffic fatalities – those that occur in parking lots, private roads and driveways and account for 900 to 1,900 deaths annually – also are omitted. By using a 30-day cutoff, NHTSA can issue a “final” count about eight months after the reference year.

Provided below is a summary of NSC’s and NHTSA’s traffic crash data for 2016:

Motor-vehicle crash outcomes, United States, 2016

NSC estimates:

Severity Deaths or injuries Crashes Drivers (vehicles) involved
Total Motor Vehicle (deaths within 1 year) 40,327 37,100 55,900
Medically consulted injury 4,600,000 3,200,000 5,900,000
Property damage (including unreported) and nondisabling injury 10,500,000 18,500,000
Total  – 13,700,000 24,500,000

NHTSA estimates:

Severity Deaths or injuries Crashes Drivers (vehicles) involved
Traffic (deaths within 30 days) 37,461 34,439 52,231
Injury (disabling and nondisabling) 3,144,000 2,177,000 4,009,000
Police-reported property damage 5,065,000 8,872,000
Total 7,277,000 12,934,000

Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for deaths, injuries, and crashes in bottom half of table. All other figures are National Safety Council estimates.