A Public Information Fact Sheet on Motor Vehicle and
Traffic Safety Published by the National Highway
Traffic Safety Administration’s National Center for
Statistics and Analysis
Motor vehicle travel is the primary means of transportation in the United
States, providing an unprecedented degree of mobility. Yet for all its
advantages, deaths and injuries resulting from motor vehicle crashes are the
leading cause of death for persons of every age from 2 through 33 years old
(based on 2000 data). Traffic fatalities account for more than 90 percent of
transportation-related fatalities. The mission of the National Highway
Traffic Safety Administration is to reduce deaths, injuries, and economic
losses from motor vehicle crashes.
Fortunately, much progress has been made in reducing the number of
deaths and serious injuries on our nation’s highways. In 2002, the fatality
rate per 100 million vehicle miles of travel fell to a new historic low
of 1.51. The 1992 rate was 1.75 per 100 million vehicle miles traveled.
A 75 percent safety belt use rate nationwide and a reduction in the rate of
alcohol involvement in fatal crashes — to 41 percent in 2002 from 47
percent in 1992 — were significant contributions to maintaining this
consistently low fatality rate. However, much remains to be done. The
economic cost alone of motor vehicle crashes in 2000 was $230.6 billion.
In 2002, 42,815 people were killed in the estimated 6,316,000 police-
reported motor vehicle traffic crashes, 2,926,000 people were injured, and
4,348,000 crashes involved property damage only.
This overview fact sheet contains statistics on motor vehicle fatalities based
on data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS). FARS is a
census of fatal crashes within the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and
Puerto Rico (although Puerto Rico is not included in U.S. totals). Crash and
injury statistics are based on data from the General Estimates System
(GES). GES is a probability-based sample of police-reported crashes, from
60 locations acros