Safer America recently published its article on traffic accident statistics for 2022. Just how safe is it (or not) to drive in the United States?
Read on to find out!
Are Collisions a Leading Cause of Death?
What would you guess is the leading cause of death in the United States?
It’s not car accidents. Per data from the CDC, the leading cause of death in the US is heart disease.
So 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 high as the 11th leading cause of death in the United States as of 2019.
The same CDC article ranks accidents in general as the 4th leading cause of death when you include all accident types above and beyond just car accidents – such as construction accidents and premises liability 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 an 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 children to obey the law and drive safely.
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. Note that 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 – especially so if you have a son.
Alcohol is – not surprisingly – 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?
Distracted driving, unfortunately, shows no signs of letting up.
In 2017, 3,166 people lost their lives due to motorists driving distracted. And yet, it is estimated that 481,000 drivers use their phones daily while driving.
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. Add in an additional passenger and their risk of a fatal accident 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 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 statistics 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 in 25 drivers age 18 or under report falling asleep behind the wheel at least once in the past 30 days
- 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?
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.
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.
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 not drive while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
For example, more than ⅓ of teens believe they drive better when high on marijuana. It should also be pointed out that 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.
It certainly appears that we are a long way away from significantly limiting 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 friends and family – safe on the road!
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Joseph R. Morrison is the Senior Associate Attorney at Mullen & Mullen Law Firm in Dallas, TX, where he represents people personally injured due to the negligence of others. He was recognized by VerdictSearch for obtaining a Top 5 Premises Liability verdict in the State of Texas, and has been quoted in the ABA Journal.