Deaths by Transportation Mode

Overall, passenger transportation incidents account for about one out of seven preventable injury-related deaths. But the risk of death for passengers on a per-mile basis varies greatly by transportation mode. Travel by personal light-duty vehicles present the greatest risk, while air, rail, and bus travel have much lower death rates. The chart shows the latest information on passenger transportation death rates. Additional data on the number of deaths is available by selecting Data Table.

  • Chart
  • Data Table

The death rate per 100 million passenger miles for light duty vehicles declined for the second consecutive year, decreasing 4% to 0.47 in 2018 following a 2% decline in 2017.  The passenger death rates were all sharply lower every year for each of the other transportation modes, with average rates over the 10-year period from 2009 to 2018 over 10 times lower for buses, 16 times lower for passenger trains, and 408 times lower for scheduled airlines. Other comparisons are possible based on passenger trips, vehicle miles, or vehicle trips, but passenger miles is the most commonly used basis for comparing the safety of various modes of travel.

Source: Highway passenger deaths – Fatality Analysis Reporting System data. Railroad passenger deaths and miles – Federal Railroad Administration. Airline passenger deaths – National Transportation Safety Board. Airline passenger miles – Bureau of Transportation Statistics. Passenger miles for transit buses – Federal Transit Administration. All other figures are National Safety Council estimates.

Notes: Light-duty vehicles include passenger cars, light trucks, vans, and SUVs, regardless of wheelbase. Includes taxi passengers.  Drivers of light-duty vehicles are considered passengers.

Rates are expressed as deaths per 100,000,000 passenger miles.