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Transportation Fatality Rates

Transportation Fatality Rates

There were 45,130 fatalities related to transportation in 2001, almost 16 fatalities per 100,000 U.S. residents [1, 2, 3, 5]. This is a decline of 11 percent from 18 fatalities per 100,000 residents in 1991, when there were 44,320 fatalities. Nearly 93 percent of all transportation fatalities in 2001 were highway-related (figure 60). Most of these people who died were occupants of passenger cars or light trucks (including pickups, sport utility vehicles, and minivans). Air, rail, transit, water, and pipeline transportation result in comparatively few deaths per capita (see box). Transit, for instance, led to about 0.11 deaths per 100,000 residents in 2001.

Highway safety improved between 1991 and 2001. Highway-related fatalities declined from 16 fatalities per 100,000 U.S. residents to 15 fatalities per 100,000 residents (or 6 percent) over the period. The decline in highway fatalities is most apparent for occupants of passenger cars (figure 61). During the period, only fatalities per 100,000 residents of occupants of light trucks rose, from 3 to 4 per 100,000 residents. (This is a period during which the number of registered light trucks increased from 53 million to 84 million [4].) Motorcyclist fatalities per 100,000 residents have been rising since 1997.

Similar trends in highway fatality rates are apparent when the rate is based on vehicle-miles traveled (vmt). Passenger car occupant fatalities per 100 million vmt declined 25 percent between 1991 and 2001, while light truck occupant fatalities per 100 million vmt rose slightly (figure 62). Motorcyclist fatalities grew 59 percent by 2001 after falling from 30.6 fatalities per 100 million vmt in 1991 to 21.0 fatalities per 100 million vmt in 1997.


1. U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Census Bureau, Census 2000, available at http://www.census.gov/main/www/cen2000.html, as of June 2003.

2. U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Coast Guard, Data Administration Division, personal communication, June 6, 2003.

3. U.S. Department of Transportation, Bureau of Transportation Statistics, National Transportation Statistics 2002 (Washington, DC: 2002), table 2-1, also available at http://www.bts.gov/, as of April 2003.

4. U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, Highway Statistics 1991 and Highway Statistics 2001 (Washington, DC: 1991 and 2001), table VM-1, 2001 edition available at http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/policy/ohpi/hss/index.htm, as of June 2003.

5. U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Transit Administration, National Trends and Summary 2001 (Washington, DC: 2002).

1 These motorcycle data are not shown in figure 62 but appear in table 62 in appendix B.

Updated: Saturday, May 20, 2017