two automobiles in a head on collision for an automobile accident fatality blog

How Many Deaths From Automobile Accidents?

It’s not surprising that automobile accidents happen every day in the U.S. However, it’s staggering to know that between 1913 and 2021, the number of automobile accident fatalities skyrocketed by 1,018%, from about 4,200 fatalities in 1913 to 42,939 fatalities in 2021. Today, car accidents claim nearly 1.3 million lives worldwide every year, with motorcyclists, pedestrians, and cyclists accounting for more than half of these fatalities.

All road users have a duty of care to use caution and their best judgment while on the road. When drivers fail to exercise this duty of care by displaying reckless behaviors, such as speeding or driving under the influence, it leads to accidents and fatalities. While we, as drivers, can take measures to reduce the chances of auto accidents and curb preventable deaths, we cannot stop them from happening altogether.

How Many Fatal Crashes Occur Every Day in the U.S.?

The U.S. General Services Administration estimates that roughly 115 people die every day in auto accidents in the U.S., with one death occurring every 13 minutes. In the summer and spring, fatal auto accidents typically peak between 8 p.m. and 11:59 p.m. From November to March, most fatal crashes happen between 4 p.m. and 7:59 p.m.

What Percentage of Automobile Crashes Are Fatal?

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 42,939 people were killed in auto accidents in 2021. This was an increase of 9.9%, reaching the highest fatality count reported since 2005. However, given that there were 6,102,936 police-reported accidents and approximately 2.5 million injured road users in 2021, the actual fatality rate in automobile crashes is less than 1%.

Speeding and drunk driving were the leading causes of fatal accidents, resulting in 12,330 and 13,384 road fatalities in 2021, respectively. There has also been a drastic upsurge in vehicle weight and horsepower levels in recent years, increasing the risk of fatal accidents. The bigger and faster a vehicle is, the more likely it is to cause a deadly accident, especially for vulnerable road users such as cyclists and pedestrians. Electric vehicles also pose a safety threat to road users, as their batteries make electric vehicles heavier than gas-powered ones, increasing the risk of road fatalities.

What Types of Road Users Were Killed in Fatal Crashes?

While traffic accidents impact all types of road users, certain groups of people are more likely to be injured or killed in a traffic accident.

In 2021, the groups that saw some of the highest rates of injury and fatality included:

  • Passenger vehicle fatalities — passenger cars and light trucks — increased by 2,411.
  • Light and large truck fatalities increased by 1,510 and 186, respectively.
  • Pedestrian fatalities grew by 823 to 7,388 fatalities.

It’s also important to point out that the NHTSA reports that male drivers are four times more likely to be involved in drunk driving accidents compared to female drivers. Younger drivers aged between 21 and 34 are also more likely to engage in drunk driving, while young male drivers between 15 and 24 years are more likely to be speeding at the time of fatal accidents.

Alarmingly, motorcycle riders accounted for the highest percentage — 28% — of drivers involved in alcohol-impaired fatal crashes, with 5,932 motorcycle operators losing their lives in 2021. Some of the distinct risks that make motorcycle riders more vulnerable are the little bodily protection that motorbikes offer, the disregard for helmet use, and the lack of coordination when intoxicated.

What Are the Crash Characteristics of These Fatal Crashes?

In 2021, different crash characteristics led to fatalities in the U.S., including:

  • Single-crash vehicle accidents resulted in the largest majority of fatal crashes — 23,129 deaths, accounting for roughly 54% of all fatal crashes.
  • Pedestrians accounted for 1,802 of the 2,872 fatalities caused by hit-and-run accidents.
  • 3,522 people died in distracted driving accidents, representing about 8% of all fatal crashes.
  • 20,778 drivers in fatal crashes were involved in drunk driving, speeding, or not wearing a seat belt.

Single-vehicle accidents were the most prevalent in 2021, with distracted driving, inexperience, road hazards, poor road conditions, drowsy driving, and speeding being some of the leading causes.

What Are the Traffic Fatalities by Land Use (Rural Versus Urban)?

Since 2016, the number of automobile fatalities on urban roadways has surpassed the number of fatal crashes on rural roadways. In 2021, the number of urban and rural fatalities increased by 14% and 4.7%, respectively. Approximately 78% of this increase — 3,085 fatalities — were in urban areas, with more motorcyclists and nonoccupants dying in urban areas. In rural areas, a majority of the fatalities involved light truck occupants, passenger car occupants, large trucks, and buses.

Which State Witnessed the Most Fatal Crashes?

Different factors, including the population, total vehicles, state laws, and topography, play a crucial role in how some states consistently record fatal automobile crashes compared to others. For example, over the past five years, Mississippi has recorded the highest number of auto deaths per 100,000 people.

On the other hand, states with large populations and many vehicles, such as Texas, California, and Florida, record the most traffic fatalities almost every year. For instance, in 2021, Texas recorded 4,498 automobile deaths, with California and Florida recording 4,285 and 3,738 traffic deaths, respectively. Louisiana recorded 972 traffic fatalities in the same year, representing a 17% change from 2020.

On the other hand, the District of Columbia and Rhode Island recorded the fewest fatalities, with 41 traffic deaths in D.C. and 63 deaths in Rhode Island.

What Should I Do After an Accident?

Automobile crashes can happen anywhere. That’s why it is crucial to know the steps to take to save lives and protect your rights if you are involved in a crash. 

If you’re involved in a motor vehicle accident, the first thing you should do is check on your own health. Once you have ascertained whether you’ve sustained any visible injuries, follow these steps:

  • Call 911 
  • Check if your passengers are injured
  • Seek medical attention
  • Exchange information with all involved parties, including witnesses
  • Take photos and videos of the scene
  • Report the accident to your insurance company
  • Contact an auto accident attorney for legal advice

If a loved one passes away in an auto accident as a result of another party’s negligence, surviving family members can seek justice on their behalf by filing a wrongful death claim.


  1. Historical Car Crash Deaths and Rates. National Safety Council. Accessed December 2023.
  2. Road traffic injuries. World Health Organization. Accessed December 2023.
  3. Crashes Are No Accident. U.S. General Services Administration. Accessed December 2023.
  4. Crashes by Time of Day and Day of Week. National Safety Council. Accessed December 2023.
  5. Overview of Motor Vehicle Traffic Crashes in 2021. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Accessed December 2023.
  6. Quick Facts 2021. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Accessed December 2023.
  7. Drunk Driving | Statistics and Resources. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Accessed December 2023.
  8. The 2022 EPA Automotive Trends Report. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Accessed December 2023.
  9. Safety Experts Worried About Electric Cars’ Weight. Kelley Blue Book. Accessed December 2023.
  10. Speeding – Injury Facts. National Safety Council. Accessed December 2023.
  11. Distracted Driving Dangers and Statistics. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Accessed December 2023.
  12. Motor-Vehicle Deaths by State. National Safety Council. Accessed December 2023.

Fatality Facts 2021. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Accessed December 2023.

Morris & Dewett provides this information to the public for general education and interest. The firm does not represent clients in every topic discussed in answers to frequent questions. The information is curated and produced based on questions commonly asked or search terms commonly used. Every effort is made to provide accurate information. Do not make any decision solely based on the information provided, please seek relevant counsel for each topic area. Consult an attorney before making any legal decision, consult a doctor before making any medical decision, and consult a financial advisor before making any fiscal decision. Information provided is not legal advice. If you have any legal needs, please do not hesitate to contact us. We are pleased to assist you.

Morris & Dewett Will Answer Your Questions and Help You Recover