How Many Car Accidents Occur Each Hour, Day & Year in the U.S.?March 29, 2023
Too Many Car Crashes Happen in the U.S. Most Are Preventable.
Car accidents are a leading cause of injury and death in the U.S. In fact, at least 7.3 million motor vehicle accidents occur each year across the nation, according to recent data and the latest findings from authorities. And that works out to roughly:
- 19,937 crashes every day
- 118 deaths caused by auto accidents each day
- 831 motor vehicle accidents each hour
- 14 wrecks every minute
- 2 auto crashes every 10 seconds
As shocking as those statistics may be, they’re just a small window into the bigger story, particularly when it comes to what’s causing auto accidents and how to prevent them.
Highlighting more about how, when, why, and where most auto crashes happen, here are the most up-to-date car accident statistics, with insights on how negligence is often involved and tips on how to minimize your risk of being hurt in a car wreck (simply click on a heading below to “jump” to any section on this page):
- What Causes Car Accidents?
- How Do Impaired Drivers Cause Crashes?
- When Is It Most Dangerous to Drive & Be on the Roads?
- What Day of the Year Has the Most Deadly Car Accidents?
- How Can I Lower My Risk of a Car Accident?
What Causes Car Accidents?
More than 9 in every 10 auto accidents are caused by human errors. These oversights and mistakes can take many forms, including:
- Decision errors: These mistakes, like making an illegal turn or speeding, are involved in about 1 in every 3 accidents caused by human error.
- Performance errors: Overcorrecting after changing lanes, along with other performance errors, contributes to about 11% of crashes involving human mistakes.
- Recognition errors: Failing to notice signage, not seeing a pedestrian, and otherwise not recognizing critical cues in the driving environment play a role in about 41% of all wrecks.
With most of these accident-causing human errors:
- Drivers are to blame: Humans behind steering wheels are often at fault for the errors that cause crashes, and the motorists who are most often to blame for these errors tend to include the youngest, most inexperienced motorists (like teen drivers), as well as the oldest drivers on the roads.
- One error can trigger others: Although a single driver error can be sufficient to cause wrecks, it’s not uncommon for one human mistake to beget others. For instance, if a motorist fails to see a signal change (i.e., makes a recognition error), there are generally higher chances that the driver will then also make a risky decision, like running a red like (i.e., making a decision or performance error right after).
How Do Impaired Drivers Cause Crashes?
The errors discussed above usually have a greater risk of causing crashes when motorist impairment is also involved. That impairment can come in the form of:
- Drunk drivers: Intoxicated and/or drugged motorists are responsible for causing close to 10,500 deaths each year in the U.S. That works out to one death every 51 minutes. And it means that drunk driving causes about 1 in every 3 car accident deaths.
- Fatigued drivers: Tired, exhausted motorists can be just as dangerous as drunk drivers, showing similar delays in reaction time, as well as impaired perception and decision-making abilities. In fact, recent data shows that driving after 20 hours without sleep can result in similar impairments to legally drunk drivers who have blood alcohol concentrations (BACs) of 0.08.
- Distracted motorists: Like alcohol impairment and fatigue, distraction can also interfere with drivers’ ability to make safe and sound decisions behind the wheel. In fact, distracted drivers are responsible for close to 3,200 deaths on the roads each year in the U.S. That works out to about 9 fatal distracted driving crashes every day. And it means that close to 1 in every 10 auto accident deaths is caused by a distracted motorist.
It’s crucial to point out that while human error is a major and leading cause of motor vehicle accidents in the U.S., it is NOT the only factor that can contribute to these wrecks. In fact, other contributing factors can include:
- Vehicle equipment failures: Noted as a factor in about 2% of all auto accidents, vehicle equipment failures can include malfunctions associated with tires, brakes, ignition systems, or any other vital component of vehicles. While some vehicle equipment failures are due to owners’ failures to maintain vehicles properly, others result from inherently flawed designs, manufacturing errors, and other issues.
- Environment conditions: Road and weather conditions can increase the risk of vehicle equipment failures, and they factor into about 2% of all auto accidents.
Determining what contributed to an auto accident can require a thorough investigation, a deeper look at the available evidence, and a skilled eye that knows what to look for and how to interpret the evidence.
When Is It Most Dangerous to Drive & Be on the Roads?
Auto accidents can happen pretty much anywhere and anytime that drivers or others are not taking enough safety precautions. Nevertheless, car crashes are more likely to occur during certain times of the year — and during certain days, as well as specific times of the day.
Actually, the data shows that most auto accidents take place:
- In August: This is the single deadliest month of the year when it comes to fatal auto accidents, with close to 33% of all crash-related deaths occurring in August. On the surface, it may seem random that most car crash deaths occur in August, but there are some underlying reasons for this. First, more motorists tend to be on the roads in August when the weather is nice and younger drivers, like teens, are not in school. Plus, the motoring public in August typically drives longer distances, covering more miles, than drivers who are on the roads during other months of the year.
- On Saturdays: When looking at crash rates by day of the week, most deadly motor vehicle accidents occur on Saturdays. Like August, Saturdays tend to see more motorists on the roads simply because more folks tend to be off work and available to commute or travel for recreational purposes. Notably, there are about 158 car accident deaths on an average Saturday in the U.S. That number spikes considerably when those Saturdays fall on holiday weekends, like Thanksgiving Day weekend or Memorial Day weekend, when drunk driving and road trips also tend to skyrocket.
- At Night: When looking at accident rates during the day versus nights, more fatal wrecks take place in the evenings, between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. That’s when many folks get off work and drive home. It’s also when the sun starts to set, transitioning into lower visibility conditions at night. It’s also worth pointing out that midnight to 4 a.m. is the window of time associated with the highest death rate on the roads. That’s also when low visibility, fatigued driving, and impaired driving tend to be bigger problems for motorists.
What Day of the Year Has the Most Deadly Car Accidents?
July 4th is the deadliest day of the year to be on the roads because this holiday has more fatal auto accidents than any other day of the year. Tragically, impaired driving is a major factor here, with drunk motorists contributing to a large number of fatal traffic wrecks on the 4th of July.
Remarkably, however, other holidays tend to also see spikes in deadly motor vehicle accidents, with New Year’s, Thanksgiving, and Memorial Day also being tied to surges in roadway deaths year in and year out.
How Can I Lower My Risk of a Car Accident?
If you’re like the average driver, there are good chances that you’ll be in about 3 to 4 auto accidents over your lifetime, according to this data. Still, that does NOT mean that you can’t take action to reduce your crash risks.
In fact, there are several simple steps you can take to minimize your risk of being in a wreck and to be a little safer any time you’re on the roads. That includes (and is not limited to) doing the following:
- Always wear your seatbelt: Buckling up is the single most effective way to limit your risk of injury and death if a crash occurs. In fact, seatbelts can cut the risk of crash injuries by roughly half.
- Always drive sober: Never get behind the wheel if you feel different after consuming alcohol, prescription medications, or any drugs. If you feel different, you’re probably driving differently — and you could be experiencing perception errors or delayed reactions that increase the risks of wrecks. So, don’t drive unless you’re 100% sober.
- Focus on driving: Don’t multitask while driving. Focus 100% of your attention on the road and the act of driving. With conditions rapidly changing in driving environments, fully focusing on the road is the only way to really be vigilant and properly responsive.
- Comply with traffic laws: Do what other drivers expect you to do. Use your signals, abide by rights-of-way, don’t follow other vehicles too closely, and do what you’re supposed to do behind the wheel.
- Drive defensively: Assume that other drivers on the roads are going to make mistakes, overlook you, and violate the rules of the road. If you anticipate others making mistakes and unsafe maneuvers, you’ll wait a bit longer, take it a bit slower, and leave more room between your vehicle and others. Those and other defensive driving moves can go a long way toward preventing crashes and saving lives.
These driving safety tips can do a lot to help you protect yourself whenever you’re on the roads. Nevertheless, you can’t control how sober, careful, or safe other motorists are. And you can’t always predict when other risky drivers are going to make mistakes or take reckless actions that cause crashes.
When that happens, it’s time to contact a lawyer and get more information about your rights and legal options for seeking justice and financial recovery.