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Years of Potential Life Lost from Transportation Accidents

Years of Potential Life Lost from Transportation Accidents

For people under 65 years of age, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has ranked transportation accidents as the third leading cause of death in the United States (after cancer and heart disease) each year from 1991 to 2000 [1]. During those years, an average of nearly 36,000 people under 65 died each year from transportation accidents.1

While transportation accidents amounted to 6 percent of the deaths of those under age 65 between 1991 and 2000, these fatalities represented 10 percent of the total years of potential life lost (YPLL) during this period (figure 63). YPLL, which is computed by adding up the remaining life expectancies of all victims (up to 65 years of age) at their deaths, is a measurement that accounts for the age distribution among different causes of injury mortality and other common causes of death (see box). Accordingly, the difference between the percentage of deaths and YPLL indicates that people who die from transportation accidents tend to be younger on average than victims of other causes of death.

Motor vehicle crashes are the most frequent cause of transportation-related fatalities. YPLLs associated with deaths related to motor vehicle accidents can be compared with YPLLs for deaths from all other modes of transportation (figure 64). This shows that, over the 10 years, motor vehicle deaths also contributed to the bulk of YPLLs due to transportation accidents.


1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control, National Center for Health Statistics, National Vital Statistics Reports: Deaths, 1991–2000 issues, available at http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/, as of March 2003.

1 Because of methodological differences, fatality data from the CDC differ from those collected by the individual modal administrations.

Updated: Saturday, May 20, 2017