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The Roadway Safety Problem

Our Nation's Roadway Safety Crisis

Explore interactive data visualizations to learn about the significant impact of motor vehicle deaths in our communities and where progress is being made in eliminating roadway deaths.

Map of the Unites States showing the Concentration of Roadway Fatalities by County.

Almost 95% of people who die using our Nation’s transportation networks are killed on our streets, roads, and highways, and this threat to our safety is getting worse. Read the National Roadway Safety Strategy to learn about what U.S. DOT is doing to address this crisis.

More than 370,000 people died in transportation incidents over the last decade (2011-2020) in the United States. More than 350,000 of them died on our roads.

Pie chart depicting the proportion of roadway fatalities that occurred in each mode of transportation between 2011 and 2020:Roadway: 354,272 (94.2 percent) Railroad: 7,566 (2.0 percent) Water: 7,379 (2.0 percent) Air: 4,177 (1.1 percent) Transit: 2,574 (0.7 percent) Pipeline: 120 (0.03 percent)

Source: Bureau of Transportation Statistics

In 2020, an estimated 38,680 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes, of which an estimated 6,236 were people walking. In the first six months of 2021, an estimated 20,160 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes, up an alarming 18.4% over 2020. That is the largest number of projected fatalities for January to June since 2006.2 Millions more are injured – sometimes permanently – each year. 

Roadway fatalities and the fatality rate declined consistently for 30 years, but progress has stalled over the last decade and went in the wrong direction in 2020.

Line and bar charts illustrating the trend of fatalities and fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel between 1975 and 2020. Fatalities exceeded 50,000 per year in the late 1970s, but dropped consistently until about 2010, remaining steady between 32,000 and 34,000 until 2015. Total fatalities have exceeded 36,000 since 2016. Similarly, the fatality rate declined from more than 3 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel to a low of 1.08 in 2014. In 2020, however, the fatality rate jumped to 1.37, up from 1.11 in 2019.

Source: Fatality Analysis Reporting System

Traffic crashes are a leading cause of death for teenagers in America, and disproportionately impact people who are Black and American Indian. The rate of fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled has not substantially improved over the last 10 years, and increased significantly in 2020.

Graphic of a full Major League baseball stadium. Text overlay reads: Imagine a world where no one dies on our roadways. In 2021, 42,915 people lost their lives on roadways across the nation. That number of people could fill the average professional baseball stadium. To learn more about the Safe System Approach, visit Note: Figure is an estimate of motor vehicle traffic fatalities in 2021 (Source: NHTSA).42,915 people died on America’s roads in 20213

Compared to 2020, fatalities increased:

  • 10.5% overall. 42,915 lives were lost, the highest total number recorded since 2007
  • 16% on urban roads
  • 14% among drivers ages 65 and older
  • 13% among people walking, totaling 7,342 lives lost, the highest recorded in decades
  • 13% among fatal crashes involving at least one large truck
  • 9% among motorcyclists, totaling 6,101 lives lost, the highest total ever recorded

Source: Fatality Analysis Reporting System

1NHTSA: Early Estimates of Motor Vehicle Traffic Fatalities and Fatality Rate by Sub-Categories in 2020
2NHTSA: Early Estimate of Motor Vehicle Traffic Fatalities for the First Half (January–June) of 2021
3Early Estimates of Motor Vehicle Traffic Fatalities and Fatality Rate by Sub-Categories in 2021

Last updated: Thursday, February 2, 2023