Early estimations from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) show that car crash fatality statistics continue to move in the right direction. The first quarter of 2024 reflects a 3.2 percent decrease in fatalities compared to the first quarter results from 2023. NHTSA will have finalized 2023 statistics later this year, but data shows that 1,515 fewer lives were lost due to traffic fatalities than in 2022. While improvements to infrastructure and vehicle standards are ongoing at the state and federal levels, we can all help prevent costly car wrecks and hopefully reduce insurance premiums by engaging in defensive driving and other preventive measures.

Car crash statistics

Key crash stats
  • An average of 3,836 car crash fatalities occurred per month in 2022. (NSC)
  • An estimated 8,650 people died from traffic crashes in the first three months of 2024 compared to 8,935 in the first quarter of 2023. (NHTSA)
  • Approximately 5.8 million people experienced non-fatal crashes in 2022. (NSC)
  • The estimated total cost of car crashes in 2022 was $340 billion. (IIHS)
  • Pedestrian fatalities increased by 13 percent from 2020 to 2021. (NHTSA)
  • The rate of car crash deaths by 100,000 miles traveled increased by 21 percent from 2019 to 2020, constituting the largest annual increase since reporting began in 1975. (IIHS)
  • In 2022, 693 fatalities resulted from drowsy-driving related crashes. (NHTSA)
  • An estimated 42,915 people died in car crashes in 2021, a 10.5 percent increase from 2020. (NHTSA)

Leading causes of fatal car accidents

According to the most recent report from the NHTSA, there were an estimated 40,999 motor vehicle fatalities in 2023, a 3.6 percent decrease from 2022. The preliminary data from the first quarter of 2024 shows a promising 3.2 decrease in car crash fatalities when compared to the same period last year. When looking at how many people die in a car accident each year, the fatality rate was trending downward over the past 40 years until 2020. 2021 had the highest increase in year-to-year fatalities in the history of the Fatality Analysis Reporting System. This increase may be partially due to a rebound in driving after the initial lull during the onset of the pandemic in 2020.

Primary fatal auto crash factors
  • Drunk driving: Drunk drivers cause an average of almost 11,000 fatalities every year. In 2022, there were 13,524 drunk driving-related deaths. This averages out to one death every 39 minutes. (NHTSA)
  • Lack of seatbelt use: Of those fatally injured in a passenger vehicle, 45 percent of drivers and 51 percent of front seat passengers were wearing their seatbelts. (IIHS)
  • Speeding: In 2022, 29 percent of motor vehicle crash deaths involved speeding. Speeding accounted for 12,151 deaths and 300,595 injuries. Additionally, 87 percent of speeding-related fatalities occurred on non-interstate roads. (NHTSA)
  • Distracted driving: 8 percent of fatal car crashes accounting for 3,308 fatalities in 2022 involved distracted driving. Cell phone use, reading, grooming and adjusting the radio are some of the actions behind distracted driving behavior. (IIHS)
  • Drowsy driving: In 2022, there were 693 fatalities resulting from drowsy-driving related crashes. Most drowsy driving occurs between midnight and 6 a.m. or in the late afternoon. (NHTSA)

Driver behavior

Dangerous driver behavior is more likely to occur under specific circumstances, such as after staying out late or drinking. Drinking alcohol can lower a driver’s risk tolerance, and they may consider themselves safe to get behind the wheel when, in fact, their blood-alcohol content (BAC) is over the legal limit. Consider the following statistics.

  • A Traffic Injury Research Foundation poll found that 30.7 percent of respondents thought that despite being over the legal BAC limit, they were still able to drive safely. (TIRF)
  • Male respondents were nearly 67.8 percent more likely than women to report driving when they thought they were over the legal limit. (TIRF)
  • Drivers between the ages of 30 and 39 are more likely than any other age group to drive impaired often or very often. (TIRF)

Finding ways to mitigate dangerous driving practices can create safer roads for you and those around you. Some expert strategies include:

  • Plan ahead: Make sure you have a designated driver before attending an event where you will be drinking. Even if you’re not planning on drinking alcohol, you may want to make sure you have a ride home if you’re staying out late, because drowsy driving can lead to accidents as well.
  • Create good habits: Make some behaviors like wearing a seatbelt and keeping your phone out of reach while driving second nature, even for short distances.
  • Take your time: Distracted driving and speeding may occur if a driver is running late. Leaving the house with plenty of time may help you avoid accidents and remain calmer behind the wheel. It’s better to be a few minutes late than risk an accident.

Car crashes over time

The NHTSA’s annual car crash report is compiled by the government and focuses on motor vehicle fatalities. According to statistics dating back to 1994, the total number of fatal car crashes has not seen any drastic shifts. In 1994, there were 36,254 crashes, compared to 42,514 in 2023. 2011 holds the record for the lowest number of crashes with 29,867. Where we see a real change in numbers is for driving factors for those involved in crashes.

Factors such as being distracted or disobeying traffic signs have varied over the years. According to the data below, alcohol-impaired crashes have yielded the most fatalities in most recent years. Total car crash fatalities have increased over the last five years in tandem with population growth.

Year Total car crash fatalities Alcohol-impaired driving fatalities Speed-related fatalities Pedestrian and pedalcyclist fatalities
2023* 40,990
2022 42,514 13,524 12,151 8,627
2021 42,939 13,384 12,330 8,354
2020 38,824 11,654 11,258 7,454
2019 36,096 10,142 9,478 7,051
2018 36,560 10,511 9,378 7,140
2017 37,133 10,874 9,717 6,760
2016 34,748 10,497 10,111 6,827
2015 35,092 10,265 9,557 6,194

*2023 statistics are projections. Finalized data will be available in 2025

Car crash statistics by state

Car wreck rates differ by state and region due to variations in road quality, public transit options and number of drivers on the roadway. NHTSA divides the country into 10 regions to track driving behavior. The following chart shows which states are included in each region and how the car crash fatality rate changed between 2022 and 2023.

NHTSA Regions States Regional percentage change in car crash fatalities between 2022 and 2023
Region 1 MA, ME, NH, RI, VT 15% decrease
Region 2 CT, NJ, NJ, PA 4% decrease
Region 3 DC, DE, KY, MD, NC, VA, WV 1% increase
Region 4 AL, FL, GA, SC 4% decrease
Region 5 IL, IN, MI, MN, OH, WI 4% decrease
Region 6 LA, MS, NM, OK,TX 4% decrease
Region 7 AR, IA, KS, MO, NE 4% decrease
Region 8 CO, NV, UT WY 5% decrease
Region 9 AZ, CA, HI 7% decrease
Region 10 AK, ID, MT, OR, WA 5% increase

*Source: NHTSA’s National Center for Statistics and Analysis

Statistical projections reveal that Region 1 experienced a 15 percent decrease in car crash fatalities in 2023 — the most dramatic change across all regions. One potential reason for fewer traffic fatalities in the Northeast is the availability of high-quality public transit. Boston has the best public transit in the country, according to Metro Magazine, and Rhode Island has some of the cheapest public transportation in the country.

Southeastern and Western states such as New Mexico and Mississippi experience some of the most car accident deaths per 100,000 people. These states are known for poor public transit and feature a high concentration of poorly paved, winding and often dark rural roads that can pose dangers to drivers. Drivers in these states may also be further away from medical services, increasing incident response rates.

States with the highest amount of car crash fatalities in 2023

State Car crash fatalities Car crash fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled (VMT)
Mississippi 715 1.73
South Carolina 1,028 1.70
Arizona 1,315 1.69
Kentucky 828 1.65
West Virginia 267 1.64

States with the lowest amount of car crash fatalities in 2023

State Car crash fatalities Car crash fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled (VMT)
Massachusetts 348 0.56
Minnesota 418 0.71
New Jersey 615 0.78
Utah 280 0.80
Wisconsin 584 0.87
  • State Car crash fatalities Car crash fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled (VMT)
    Alabama 974 1.24
    Alaska 57 0.98
    Arizona 1,315 1.69
    Arkansas 609 1.56
    California 4,013 1.26
    Colorado 720 1.30
    Connecticut 322 1.07
    Delaware 137 1.36
    District of Columbia 45 1.35
    Florida 3,436 1.47
    Georgia 1,638 1.30
    Hawaii 94 0.90
    Idaho 277 1.40
    Illinois 1,255 1.23
    Indiana 895 1.08
    Iowa 376 1.12
    Kansas 388 1.21
    Kentucky 828 1.65
    Louisiana 802 1.42
    Maine 135 0.89
    Maryland 610 1.05
    Massachusetts 348 0.56
    Michigan 1,040 1.04
    Minnesota 418 0.71
    Mississippi 715 1.76
    Missouri 993 1.23
    Montana 206 1.49
    Nebraska 231 1.08
    Nevada 389 1.40
    New Hampshire 129 0.94
    New Jersey 615 0.78
    New Mexico 407 1.46
    New York 1,111 0.97
    North Carolina 1,653 1.36
    North Dakota 106 1.11
    Ohio 1,242 1.08
    Oklahoma 697 1.53
    Oregon 589 1.58
    Pennsylvania 1,229 1.16
    Rhode Island 72 0.89
    South Carolina 1,028 1.70
    South Dakota 141 1.43
    Tennessee 1,339 1.56
    Texas 4,294 1.41
    Utah 280 0.80
    Vermont 69 0.97
    Virginia 915 1.10
    Washington 813 1.36
    West Virginia 267 1.64
    Wisconsin 584 0.87
    Wyoming 144 1.34

Car crash statistics by gender and age

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that traffic accidents are the leading cause of death worldwide for children and young adults between ages 5 and 29. However, certain demographics are more likely than others to be involved in a fatal car accident. Teen drivers are one of the most vulnerable populations.

According to IIHS, there were 2,898 teen car crash fatalities in 2022 — 7 percent fewer than in 2021. Data also shows that among the 42,514 motor vehicle deaths that occurred in 2022, a teen was driving 13 percent of the time. While teen drivers make up for only about 5 percent of all licensed drivers, they accounted for 7 percent of motor vehicle crash deaths in 2022. The main factors are driver maturity, and the ability to recognize and respond appropriately to sudden road hazards. Teens engage in distracted driving more than any other age group and are least likely to wear a seatbelt.

Females consistently have a lower death rate when compared to males across every age group. For nearly every year between 1975 and 2022, there have been two male crash deaths for every female crash death. Men typically drive more miles than women and are more likely to engage in risky behaviors such as driving while intoxicated, speeding and not wearing seatbelts. IIHS discovered that for 2021, motor vehicle crashes were the leading cause of death for females, with 1,044 fatalities, while it was the second cause of death for males, with 1,866 fatalities. Homicide and suicide were the first and second causes of death, respectively.

How safety devices save lives

Safety laws and vehicle safety features can reduce the chances of injury or death in a car accident. One simple and safe choice every passenger can make is properly wearing a seat belt.

Over the decades, drivers and passengers have begun to use restraints more consistently. In 2023, the national seat belt use rate was 91.9 percent. Seat belts are important components of vehicle safety. In 2022, 49.8 percent of passengers that died from car crashes were not wearing a seat belt. It is estimated that around 375,000 lives have been saved by wearing seat belts.

Although airbags were not standard for many vehicles until 1999, all cars are required to have them installed in the front of the vehicle, and some even have them on the sides. Airbags can curb the impact of a car crash by providing a cushion between the passenger and the vehicle itself. Airbags saved 50,457 lives from 1975 to 2017, according to the latest NHTSA data available.

Over the years, laws have changed from state to state regarding motorcyclists wearing helmets. Even if it is not mandated by law, wearing a helmet when on the road is a widely recommended safety measure. Since the 70s, proper helmet usage has saved 45,746 lives. While these safety measures may seem small, it is proven that they are impactful on the number of lives saved.

Technological safety devices are also increasing in popularity. For instance, OnStar is a device that allows individuals to call advisors in the wake of an auto accident. The service also provides roadside assistance and an app where you can call for help. Many car insurance companies offer telematics discounts. These programs track driver behavior in real time and reward safe habits with potential insurance savings. These programs help drivers save money and incentivize safe habits behind the wheel.

The impact of car crashes

While it is clear that car crashes can cause injury or death, they also emotionally impact those involved. Car crash survivors can suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and be fearful of future car usage. Between 21 and 67 percent of motor vehicle crash survivors experience depressive mood, and nearly 50 percent experience anxiety and driving phobia following a crash, according to a study.

Economically, hundreds of thousands of dollars are spent between service workers dispatched to the crash, medical expenses, damages and lawsuits. The estimated total cost of U.S. car crashes in 2022 was $340 billion, according to the National Safety Council.

How do car crashes affect your auto insurance?

The purpose of car insurance is to protect you from financial loss in the event of an auto accident. Instead of being responsible for thousands of dollars out of pocket, your auto insurance steps in and covers the loss up to your policy limits. If the amount of the loss exceeds your policy limits, you are responsible for the rest.

Your auto insurance limits are typically listed as a ratio — for example, 100/300/100 (all in the thousands). These limits tell you the maximum amount your insurance company will pay per person and per accident for bodily injury liability and property damage liability if you are found at-fault in an accident. Most states have a state-required minimum limit of liability, but insurance professionals advise drivers to carry higher liability limits for better financial protection.

In addition to any out-of-pocket expenses, a crash typically impacts your ongoing insurance costs as well, unless you have an accident forgiveness benefit. Even a single at-fault car accident can raise average car insurance rates by 43 percent through a policy surcharge.

A surcharge remains on your policy for three to five years, depending on the state and situation. If surcharges are added to your policy, there are ways to lower your premium. Shop and compare your insurance with other insurance providers to make sure you have the best rate available and speak with your agent about discounts and other cost-saving opportunities.

Learn more: Compare car insurance rates

What to do after a car accident

The moments after a car accident can be scary and uncertain. If you are involved in a collision, the following checklist may be helpful.

  1. Make sure you and your passengers are safe. If anyone in the vehicle needs medical attention, the first step is to dial 911 and wait for assistance.
  2. Remain at the scene of the accident. Most states have laws against fleeing the scene after a collision, even if you are not at fault.
  3. Exchange insurance information with the other driver. This helps ensure that the claims process goes smoothly.
  4. Ask for contact information from any eyewitnesses. Witnesses can help determine liability in a car accident.
  5. Have a police officer on the scene file an official report. Police reports can help claims adjusters process your claim quickly and efficiently.
  6. Don’t discuss what happened with the other driver. Avoid making statements about the accident, accepting blame or placing blame on the other driver. The insurance company will determine fault.
  7. Take photos. Taking photos of the vehicles involved in the collision could help the claims process go quickly and smoothly.
  8. Write down an account of what happened. Writing an account of what happened while it’s still fresh can help you answer questions from your claims adjuster calmly and accurately.
  9. File a claim with your car insurance company. You can typically file a car insurance claim online, on your company’s mobile app or over the phone. You’ll likely be asked to submit your notes and photos from the scene, as well as the other driver’s name and insurance information. You can also give the names of eyewitnesses.
  10. Notify the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). In some states, drivers are required to file accident reports with the DMV. You may want to call your local DMV to see if this is required.