Epidemiology of motor vehicle collisions
Worldwide it was estimated that 1.25 million people were killed and many millions more were injured in motor vehicle collisions in 2013. This makes motor vehicle collisions the leading cause of death among young adults of 15-29 years of age (360,000 die a year) and the ninth cause of death for all ages worldwide. In the United States, 32,675 people died and 2.3 million were injured in crashes in 2014. It is estimated that motor vehicle collisions caused the deaths of around 60 million people during the 20th century, around the same as the number of World War II casualties.
Modern crash statistics often focus on reportable injury crashes (which include deaths) rather than reporting on deaths alone. It is believed that serious crashes are often significantly under-reported, under-recorded and misclassified and that the completeness of reporting may vary over time and between sources.
Road toll figures in developed nations show that car collision fatalities have declined since 1980. Japan is an extreme example, with road deaths decreasing to 5,115 in 2008, which is 25% of the 1970 rate per capita and 17% of the 1970 rate per vehicle distance travelled. In 2008, for the first time, more pedestrians than vehicle occupants were killed in Japan by cars. Besides improving general road conditions like lighting and separated walkways, Japan has been installing intelligent transportation system technology such as stalled-car monitors to avoid crashes.
In developing nations, statistics may be grossly inaccurate or hard to get. Some nations have not significantly reduced the total death rate, which stands at 12,000 in Thailand in 2007, for example.
In the United States, twenty-eight states had reductions in the number of automobile crash fatalities between 2005 and 2006. 55% of vehicle occupants 16 years or older in 2006 were not using seat belts when they crashed.
Proportion of deaths by type of impact
Crashes are categorized by what is struck and the direction of impact, or impacts. These are some common crash types, based on the total number that occurred in the U.S.A. in 2005, the percentage of total crashes, and the percentage of fatal crashes:
- Rear impacts (1,824,000 crashes, 29.6% of all US crashes, 5.4% of US fatal crashes)
- Angle or side impacts (1,779,000 crashes, 28.9% of all US crashes, 20.7% of US fatal crashes)
- Run-off-road collisions (992,000 crashes, 16.1% of US crashes, 31.7% of US fatal crashes)
- Collisions with animals (275,000 crashes, 4.5% of US crashes, 0.4% of fatal crashes)
- Rollovers (141,000 crashes, 2.3% of all US crashes, 10.9% of US fatal crashes)
- Head-on collision (123,000 crashes, only 2.0% of all US crashes, but 10.1% of US fatal crashes)
- Collisions with pedestrians and bicyclists (114,000 crashes, only 1.8% of US crashes, but 13.5% of US fatal crashes)
- Back-up collisions killed 221 people in the US in 2007, and injured about 14,400. This is one of the most common types of non-traffic auto collision in which road workers and children 15 and younger are killed.
Rollover, head-on, pedestrian, and bicyclist crashes combined are only 6.1% of all crashes, but cause 34.5% of traffic-related fatalities.
Sometimes the vehicles in the collision can suffer more than one type of impact, such as during a shunt or high-speed spin. This is called a "second harmful event," such as when a vehicle is redirected by the first crash into another vehicle or fixed object.
Statistics in Europe
(thousands of km2)
|Population Density/km2||Vehicles in circulation
of road network (kilometers)
(millions of vehicles x km)
|Number of vehicles/100 inhabitants||Deaths per million
|Deaths per billion km travelled|
|Republic of Ireland||71||4.1||58.6||1,937||95,752||37,840||46.7||96.2||10.5|
|Partial Total Eu (20 countries)||3809||451.1||118.4||269,158||4,631,781||3,451,938||59.7||87.5||11.6|
- Source IRTAD for the following data
- Number of vehicles: 2005 except Ireland 2003; Luxembourg 2004; Slovakia 2002.
- Length of the network: 2005 except Hungary and Luxembourg 2004; Germany and Denmark 2003; Slovakia 2002; Iceland 2000; Ireland 2001; Netherlands 1999; Greece and United Kingdom 1998; Portugal 1993; Italy 1992.
- Distance in Kilometres: 2005 except Denmark 2004; Italy and Netherlands 2003; Ireland 2001; Iceland and Slovakia 2000; United Kingdom and Greece 1998.
- Population: source IRTAD except for Ireland, Luxembourg, Slovakia, Sweden, Iceland and Norway: source INED.
- List of motor vehicle deaths in Australia by year
- List of motor vehicle deaths in Japan by year
- List of motor vehicle deaths in U.S. by year
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there may be 2.76 times as many seriously injured casualties than are recorded in the national casualty figures and 1.70 slight casualties
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