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Crash death rates in 50 largest US metropolitan areas

This map shows age-adjusted, all-ages motor vehicle crash death rates per 100,000 residents for 2009 for the 50 most populous metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) in the United States. Age-adjusted, all-ages death rates range from 4.4 to 17.8 per 100,000 residents. For each MSA, users can also obtain motor vehicle crash death rates for selected central cities contained within the MSA and for the state(s) containing the MSA. These rates are available for all-ages and for the 15-24 year age group. There are a few MSAs with no reportable city-level data. Figure 1. Motor Vehicle Crash Death Rates, 50 Most Populous Metropolitan Statistical Areas, 2009. View interactive map

Motor Vehicle Crash Deaths in U.S. Metropolitan Areas

The motor vehicle crash death rates in the 50 most populous U.S. metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) are lower than the national average, according to a CDC study comparing the two. An MSA is a densely populated area and the communities that surround it. The rate for all ages in the 50 MSAs was 8.2 deaths per 100,000 residents, lower than the national rate of 11.1 deaths per 100,000 residents. The motor vehicle crash death rate for 15-24 year olds in the 50 MSAs was 13.0 deaths per 100,000 residents, also lower than the national rate of 17.3 deaths per 100,000 residents. Motor vehicle crash death rates in the 50 most populous U.S. metropolitan statistical areas varied widely, from 4.4 to 17.8 per 100,000 residents.

Although rates have been declining in recent years, motor vehicle crashes remain a leading cause of injury death in the United States.1 In 2009, motor vehicle crashes killed about 35,000 people and 22% of those killed were between 15 and 24 years old.1 CDC researchers analyzed 2009 data from the National Vital Statistics System and the U.S. Census Bureau. They calculated motor vehicle crash death rates for two groups – people of all ages, and young people aged 15 to 24 years old. They looked at 15-24 year olds separately because motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for this age group. The full report can be found at the MMWR site.

The MMWR report includes motor vehicle crash (MVC) death statistics for only the 50 largest (most populous) of the more than 360 metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) in the United States, along with their major cities. Because the majority of MSAs are not covered by the report, the highest and lowest reported MVC death rates do not reflect the highest and lowest rates across all U.S. MSAs or cities. For this and other reasons, it is scientifically inaccurate to use these data to rank MSAs or cities.

The study also found:

  • Motor vehicle crash death rates for 15-24 year olds varied widely across the MSAs, ranging from 7.3 to 25.8 per 100,000 residents (see Figure 1).
  • The rates for 15-24 year olds were higher than the rates for the general population, both nationally and within the MSAs (see Figure 2).
  • While motor vehicle crash death rates for all ages in the MSAs were generally lower than the national rate, they varied four-fold across MSAs. This was also true for 15-24 year olds.
  • In general, rates were higher in MSAs in the southern parts of the U.S.

The variation in rates across MSAs highlights a need to better understand how urban development patterns affect motor vehicle crash deaths and to identify and implement effective strategies to reduce such deaths, especially among 15-24 year olds.

This bar chart shows motor vehicle crash death rates per 100,000 residents for the year 2009. The age-adjusted, all-ages motor vehicle crash death rate was 11.1 for the United States and was 8.2 for the 50 most populous metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) combined. This bar chart also shows motor vehicle crash death rates for the 15-24 year age group for the United States (17.3) and for the 50 most populous MSAs combined (13.0).

Figure 2. Motor vehicle crash death rates (per 100,000) by age, United States and 50 Metropolitan Statistical Areas, 2009

Preventing Motor Vehicle Crash Injuries and Deaths in Teens and Young Adults

The national and urban motor vehicle crash death rates for 15-24 year-olds are much higher than the rates for people of all ages. This is consistent with the fact that motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for 15-24 year-olds. Yet there are effective ways to reduce the risk of motor vehicle crashes among teens and young adults. Graduated driver licensing (GDL) systems, combined with parental management, can help keep teens safe behind the wheel. If a teen is a beginning driver, parents should keep the following in mind:

Proven Steps That Save Lives.

  • Practice driving as often as you can with your teen. The more experience he or she has behind the wheel, the safer they'll drive.
  • Make sure your new driver and their passengers always wear seat belts. This simple step can reduce your teen’s risk of dying or being badly injured in a crash by about half.
  • Prohibit driving when crashes are more likely to occur—at night and when there are other teens in the car, and enforce zero tolerance for alcohol and driving.
  • Be sure to learn and enforce your state's teen driving laws—you can find them on CDC’s State-Specific GDL Information page.
  • For more tips and tools to prevent to prevent motor vehicle crashes among teens, visit CDC’s Parents are the Key website.

A Parent-Teen Driving Agreement Sets the Rules of the Road. Discuss your rules of the road with your teen. Talk about why they are important to follow, as well as consequences for breaking them. Believe it or not, your children listen to you, particularly when they know you have their best interests at heart. Reinforce your talks by working with your teen to create a parent-teen driving agreement.

Parents Must Lead by Example. Don't wait until your teen is old enough to drive to start modeling good driving behaviors. If you talk on the phone, text, speed, drive without your seat belt, or drive after drinking alcohol so might your teen.

Motor Vehicle Crash Injuries and Deaths Caused by Impaired Driving

Among drivers with BAC levels of 0.08% or higher involved in fatal crashes in 2009, more than one out of every 3 were between 21 and 24 years of age (35%).3 At all levels of blood alcohol concentration (BAC), the risk of being involved in a crash is greater for young people than for older people.2

How can deaths and injuries from impaired driving be prevented?

Effective measures include:

  • Actively enforcing existing 0.08% BAC laws, minimum legal drinking age laws, and zero tolerance laws for drivers younger than 21 years old in all states.4,5
  • Promptly taking away the driver's licenses of people who drive while intoxicated.7
  • Using sobriety checkpoints.6
  • Requiring mandatory substance abuse assessment and treatment, if needed, for offenders convicted of alcohol-impaired driving.8

More Information

References:

  1. CDC. Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS). Atlanta, GA: US Department of Health and Human Services, CDC; 2007. Available at http://www.cdc.gov/injury/wisqars/index.html. Accessed March 18, 2012.
  2. Zador PL, Krawchuk SA, Voas RB. Alcohol-related relative risk of driver fatalities and driver involvement in fatal crashes in relation to driver age and gender: an update using 1996 data. Journal of Studies on Alcohol 2000;61:387-95.
  3. Dept of Transportation (US), National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Traffic Safety Facts 2009: Alcohol-Impaired Driving. Washington (DC): NHTSA; 2010 [cited 2011 Jan 25]. Available at URL: http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/811385.PDF [ PDF - 268KB ]
  4. Shults RA, Sleet DA, Elder RW, Ryan GW, Sehgal M. Association between state-level drinking and driving countermeasures and self-reported alcohol-impaired driving. Inj Prev 2002;8:106—10.
  5. Guide to Community Preventive Services. Reducing excessive alcohol use: enhanced enforcement of laws prohibiting sales to minors. [cited 2009 Nov 6]. Available at URL: www.thecommunityguide.org/alcohol/lawsprohibitingsales.html
  6. Elder RW, Shults RA, Sleet DA, et al. Effectiveness of sobriety checkpoints for reducing alcohol-involved crashes. Traffic Injury Prevention 2002;3:266-74.
  7. DeJong W. Hingson R. Strategies to reduce driving under the influence of alcohol. Annual Review of Public Health 1998;19:359-78.
  8. Wells-Parker E, Bangert-Drowns R, McMillen R, et al. Final results from a meta-analysis of remedial interventions with drink/drive offenders. Addiction 1995;90:907-26.
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