Motor Vehicle Deaths

Publication Date:

Dec 27, 2018

Key facts about motor vehicle deaths

  • From 1980 to 2016, the motor vehicle accident death rate among teens ages 15 to 19 declined from 42 to 12 deaths per 100,000.
  • Motor vehicle death rates rise dramatically during the late teen years (ages 17 and 18) and stay high into early adulthood; in 2016, the motor vehicle death rate for 16-year-olds was 9 deaths per 100,000, compared to 19 and 21 deaths per 100,000, respectively, for 19-year-olds and 21-year-olds.
  • Males have nearly twice the death rate from motor vehicle traffic accidents as females, at 16 and 9 deaths per 100,000, respectively, in 2016.

Trends in motor vehicle deaths

The motor vehicle death rate for teens ages 15 to 19 declined substantially from 1980 to 1992, from 42 to 28 deaths per 100,000. The fatality rate remained steady through the next decade, before steep declines resumed from 2002 to 2013, from 27 to 11 per 100,000; however, the rate then increased slightly to 12 per 100,000 in 2016 (Appendix 1). According to analysis conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, similar significant declines in fatalities occurred in the early 1980s and early 1990s—both periods of economic recession. It is likely that the recession of 2007 to 2010 played a role in restricting teen driving and reducing fatalities. Previous periods of decline were followed by a rebound; however, they did not rise back to levels seen before the decline.[1] Much of the decline in teen motor vehicle deaths in the past 30 years has been among males, especially in the period from 1990 to 1995, when rates among females remained nearly flat (Appendix 1).

Differences by age

Motor vehicle death rates rise steeply during the teen years and stay high into early adulthood. Among males, rates in 2016 were 4 deaths per 100,000 at age 14, rising steeply at ages 17 and 18, to 16 and 22 deaths per 100,000, respectively. Age-specific rates for males stay high throughout the early twenties, reaching their highest point of 30 deaths per 100,000 population at age 21. Rates for females show a similar increase with age, gradually rising from 2 deaths per 100,000 at age 14 to 13 deaths at age 18. However, there is no large increase among females from ages 18 to 22. Deaths among young females peak at age 18 and gradually taper off through the mid-twenties (Appendix 1).

Differences by gender

Males have a death rate from motor vehicle traffic accidents nearly twice that of females. In 2016, the motor vehicle death rate was 16 per 100,000 among males ages 15 to 19, compared with 9 per 100,000 among females. Similar gender differences exist across all racial and ethnic groups included in this indicator (Appendix 1).

Differences by race and Hispanic origin*

Among males, American Indian and Alaska Native youth have the highest motor vehicle accident death rates of all racial or ethnic groups included in the data, at 20 deaths per 100,000 teens. Non-Hispanic white, black, and Hispanic males have slightly lower rates (17, 16, and 15 deaths per 100,000, respectively). Asian and Pacific Islander males have the lowest motor vehicle death rates, at 7 per 100,000 teens in 2016.

Per 100,000 females, 9 non-Hispanic white and black teens in each racial/ethnic group died from a motor vehicle accident. Hispanic females had the next-highest rate, at 8 percent in 2016. The rate for American Indian and Alaska Native females appears to be the highest, although it is based on fewer than 20 cases and thus considered unstable; Asian and Pacific Islander females appear to have the lowest rates, at 10 and 3 per 100,000, respectively, in 2016 (Appendix 1).

*Hispanic youth may be of any race.

Other estimates

State and local estimates

The National Center for Injury Prevention and Control at the CDC provides rates of motor vehicle deaths by state for 1999–2016 at

International estimates

Road traffic injury death rates are available by country from the World Health Organization’s 2013 Global Status Report on Road Safety, at

Road traffic injury death rates and absolute numbers are available by region for children ages 4 and under, ages 5 to 14, and ages 15 to 29, at (Tables A2 and A3).

Data & appendices

Data source

  • Data for 1981–2016: Child Trends’ calculations using U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2017). WISQARS: Fatal injury reports, national, regional and state, 1981–2016 [Data tool]. Retrieved from
  • Data for 1980: Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics. (2014). America’s children: Key national indicators of well-being, 2014 [Table PHY. 8B]. Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved from

Raw data source

Mortality Data, National Vital Statistics System.


Appendix 1. Motor Vehicle Traffic Deaths per 100,000 Teens Ages 15 to 19: 1980–2016

Appendix 2. Number of Motor Vehicle Traffic Deaths and Rates per 100,000 Youth Ages 14 to 25: 2016



These data include all motor vehicle traffic deaths as determined by physicians, medical examiners, ad coroners and reported on death certificates. Deaths prior to 1999 are classified using ICD-9 codes and include codes E810-E819, E958.5, and E988.5. Deaths from 1999 on are classified using ICD-10 codes and include codes V30-V39 (.4-.9), V40-V49 (.4-.9), V50-V59 (.4-.9), V60-V69 (.4-.9), V70-V79 (.4-.9), V81.1 V82.1,V83-V86 (.0-.3), V20-V28 (.3-.9),V29 (.4-.9),V12-V14 (.3-.9),V19 (.4-.6), V02-V04 (.1,.9),V09.2,V80 (.3-.5),V87(.0-.8), and V89.2. For more information on ICD-10 classification, see

A listing of ICD-10 codes is available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at


[1] Longthorne, A., Subramanian, R., & Chen, C. L. (2010). An analysis of the significant decline in motor vehicle traffic crashes in 2008 (DOT HS 811 346). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Retrieved from

Suggested Citation:

Child Trends Databank. (2018).Motor vehicle deaths. Available at: