What You Need to Know About Car Accidents in The United States

Safer America recently published its article on car accident statistics for 2022. Just how safe is it (or not) to drive in the United States?

Read on to find out!

Are Car Accidents a Leading Cause of Death?

What would you guess is the leading cause of death in the United States?

Believe it or not, it’s not car accidents. Per data from the CDC, the leading cause of death in the US is heart disease.

So then where do car accidents rank? Per the CDC, car accidents are a leading cause of death for people ages 1-54.

If you take the data quoted by the Safer America article we’re discussing (38,800 deaths in 2019), and merge it with the CDC’s data on leading causes of death, car accidents may rank as the 11th leading cause of death in the United States as of 2019.

The same article at the CDC ranks accidents as the fourth leading cause of death. But this could include many other types of accidents above and beyond just car accidents.

And if you examine the causes of death shown in that article, you’ll find that “accidents” (or car accidents) is the only one which isn’t a disease of some kind.

So, are car accidents a problem in the United States? You bet they are.

Car accidents also aren’t just a problem exclusive to the United States. They kill a total of 1.3 million people across the globe annually (or 3,287 people per day).

Who’s Most Likely to Lose Their Life in a Car Accident?

So, what do the statistics say about those who die in a car accident?

The Safer America article reports that drivers account for 50% of all fatalities. Whenever you get behind the wheel, take your safety seriously and drive just like they taught you in driver’s ed.

Additionally, people 21-24 have the highest fatality rate. So, even though they may not like to hear it, always remind your young adult child to obey the law and drive safely.

Also, women statistically drive much safer than men. The only age group at which they died at a higher rate in car accidents was 0-4.

What Can You Learn about Teen Drivers?

Even though people 21-24 die at the highest rate, people 16-19 get in accidents at the highest rate.

In 2013, for example, teens 15-19 caused 11% of total car accident costs while representing just 7% of the US population, again per data from the Safer America article.

And once again, males have a much higher fatality rate than females. In fact, the rate is twice that of females.

So, you’re justified in being nervous about your teen or young adult driving. And especially so if you have a son.

Alcohol is also a major contributing factor to teen driving accidents and fatalities. In 2016, 15% of drivers ages 15-20 involved in fatal wrecks were legally drunk and had a BAC of .08 or higher.

And finally, statistics prove that teens don’t like to wear their seatbelts. In 2016, 48% of teen occupants who died in teen car wrecks were not wearing a seatbelt when the accident happened.

What about Elderly Drivers?

With Baby Boomers now becoming senior citizens, people 65 and over now find themselves responsible for more fatalities and accidents than ever before.

Just how dangerous are elderly drivers?


In 2015, they accounted for 6,165 fatalities and 240,000 accidents, representing 18% of all traffic fatalities and 10% of all people injured in car accidents.

What Role Does Distracted Driving Play in Car Accidents?

Distracted driving shows no signs of letting up.

In 2017, 3,166 people lost their lives due to motorists driving distracted. And still, 481,000 drivers use their phones while driving daily.

Not surprisingly, texting while driving, though illegal in 46 states, still plays a major role in distracted driving accidents.

And did you know it takes the average person five seconds to read and send a text? That’s the equivalent of driving the full length of a football field with your eyes closed!

But cell phone use isn’t the only culprit when it comes to distracted driving accidents.

Teens, for example, see their risk of a fatal accident double if they have just one passenger aboard. If that increases by just one more passenger, their risk of a fatal accident also increases by two to five times.

Interestingly, 94% of teen drivers acknowledge the danger texting while driving presents, but 35% admit to doing it anyway.

Adults tend to believe they can handle texting while driving too. Another stat reveals that 77% of adults and 55% of teens believe they have the skills to manage texting while driving.

And here’s a surprising stat: 62% of distracted driving accidents happen simply because drivers let their mind wander off the road!

What About Drowsy Driving’s Role in Car Accidents?

Drowsy driving’s a serious issue too. Some research shows drowsy driving is equally as dangerous as drunk driving.

To support that idea, know that the Safer America article says that drowsy driving caused 83,000 accidents from 2005 – 2009.

It also seems obvious, but it’s worth noting that 48% of drowsy driving accidents happen between 9 pm and 6 am.

And even though we just gave you a statistic on the number of accidents drowsy driving caused, another source, The 2009 Massachusetts Special Commission on Drowsy Driving, says drowsy driving could cause 1.2 million accidents, 8,000 fatalities, and 500,000 injuries each year.

Finally, who is at risk of drowsy driving?

A couple groups:

  1. 1 in 25 drivers age 18 or under report falling asleep behind the wheel at least once in the past 30 days
  2. People who snore or sleep 6 or fewer hours per day are more likely to report falling asleep while driving

What Role Does Driving Under the Influence of Drugs or Alcohol Play in Causing Car Accidents?

We know it’s extremely dangerous and foolish to drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

But what exactly do the statistics say?

For starters, 2016 saw 10,497 people lose their lives due to drunk drivers. Shockingly, this means that every two minutes, someone is hurt in an accident with an alcohol-impaired driver. This number changes to every 50 minutes when it comes to fatalities.

And out of all the stats Safer America quotes, this one might be the most surprising: ⅔ of all people will be involved in a drunk driving crash at some point in their lifetime!

Whoa! Take a second and reflect on that once: most people will at some point either drive drunk and cause an accident or be the victim of such an accident.

That’s amazing.

Fortunately, our states are waking up to the matter. It is now illegal to drive with a BAC of .08 or greater in every state in the country.

But that doesn’t mean everyone will obey the law and drive sober.

That’s because more than ⅓ of teens believe they drive better when high on marijuana.

And repeat offenders account for about ⅓ of all DUI arrests and convictions.

In 2016, more than 1 million drivers were arrested for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Out of all the causes of car accident fatalities, 28% were due to motorists driving under the influence.

Unfortunately, it appears as though we are a long way away from putting an end to accidents and fatalities caused by motorists driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Wrapping It Up

So, you now have some striking car accident statistics to ponder, courtesy of Safer America.

And you also have a better idea of how car accidents happen and what you can do to keep yourself, and your family, safe!

Did you know that 20% of Texas’ drivers have no car insurance at all, per the Texas DOT? And that could easily cost you tens of thousands! Learn more here.

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