Comparison of NSC and NHTSA Estimates

The National Safety Council (NSC) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) count motor-vehicle crash deaths using somewhat different criteria. NSC counts total motor-vehicle-related fatalities – both traffic and nontraffic – 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 (NCHS). 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 (FARS). This means the FARS count omits between 800 to 1,000 motor-vehicle-related deaths that occur more than 30 days after the crash each year. Nontraffic fatalities (those that do not occur on public highways; e.g., parking lots, private roads, and driveways), which account for 900 to 1,900 deaths annually, are also omitted. By using a 30-day cutoff, NHTSA can issue a “final” count about eight months after the reference year.

The graph below shows the NCHS death certificate counts of unintentional motor-vehicle deaths through 2018 compared to the NHTSA FARS counts of traffic deaths.

  • Chart
  • Data Table

Source: NSC totals are from NCHS. NHTSA totals are from FARS.