Car Accident Statistics in America 1950 – 2011


In 2009, traffic deaths in the U.S. hit their lowest level since 1950. Those numbers continued to decline in 2010. In April 2011, the Department of Transportation released its final statistics for the previous year, indicating:

  • 32,788 auto fatalities, down from 33,808 in 2009,
  • a year-over-year drop of 3 percent,
  • and a hugely encouraging 25 percent decline from 43,510 deaths in 2005.

The agency attributed the steadily dropping numbers to:

  • changes in auto design including impact crumple zones,
  • third generation airbags,
  • active sensing systems like lane detection and blind-spot monitoring,
  • safe driving campaigns targeting distracting driving,
  • stronger enforcement of drunk driving laws,
  • the widespread implementation and enforcement of seat belt laws,
  • more restrictive laws governing young drivers.

Drunk Driving Accidents Steadily Declining

Of the reported crashes in 2010, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said 32 percent were in some way related to alcohol. The agency began to record alcohol-related statistics in 1982. Since that time, alcohol-related fatalities have decreased by 49 percent, reflecting the success of the national campaign to fight drunk driving.

Major Campaign Against Distracted Driving

It is estimated that 28 percent of all traffic fatalities are directly linked to distracted driving. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has made it his personal mission to combat auto deaths due to cell phone use and other in-cabin activities that take the driver’s attention from the roadway.

Currently texting while driving is outlawed in:

  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • District of Columbia
  • Georgia
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Louisiana
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • Oregon
  • Tennessee
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

In Texas, school bus drivers cannot text if transporting children under the age of 17. Underage drivers with learner’s permits are forbidden to text in: Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Texas and West Virginia. All cell phone use by drivers under 18 is forbidden in Kentucky and Indiana and there is a law pending in Florida.

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Driving Statistics and Insurance Discounts

Obviously, drunken driving and distracted driving remain two of the most deadly behind-the-wheel activities. Other leading causes of auto accidents include:

  • speeding,
  • rapid and frequent lane changes,
  • failure to use turn signals,
  • tailgating,
  • failure to yield,
  • ignoring traffic signals.

Anyone with a clean driving record and no citations for either driving-under-the-influence or texting will be in a better position to receive insurance discounts. If your driving record does reflect alcohol-related infractions, there may be nothing you can do until a set amount of time has passed. For other citations, taking driver’s education classes can help.

Any driver whose vehicle includes advanced safety systems for monitoring the car while in motion (for instance lane detection of night vision) or while at a stop (perimeter and rear view cameras), should point out this fact to your insurer. Often you get discounts simply be asking for them. Emphasizing the safety profile of your vehicle can garner big savings.

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