Deaths by Transportation Mode
Overall, motorized 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 are available by selecting Data Table.
- Data Table
Note: The source for passenger miles traveled estimates changed in 2016, resulting in substantial decreases in rates for buses and rail passenger trains. Use caution when comparing historic trends.
The death rate per 100 million passenger miles for passenger vehicles increased for the second consecutive year, increasing 1.8% to 0.57 in 2021. Passenger vehicles are by far the most dangerous motorized transportation option compared. Over the last 10 years, passenger vehicle death rate per 100,000,000 passenger miles was over 20 times higher than for buses, 17 times higher than for passenger trains, and 595 times higher than 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 (FARS) data. Railroad passenger deaths – Federal Railroad Administration. Airline passenger deaths – National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). Passenger miles estimates – Bureau of Transportation Statistics. All other figures are National Safety Council estimates.
Notes: Passenger 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.