Skip directly to search Skip directly to A to Z list Skip directly to navigation Skip directly to page options Skip directly to site content

Saving Lives and Protecting People: Preventing Motor Vehicle-related Injuries

Every day, thousands of Americans are involved in motor vehicle crashes that result in injury or death: A teen driver killed just months after getting his license. An older driver disabled in a crash. A father injured while driving intoxicated.

The toll of motor vehicle crashes is staggering. In 2011:

  • More than 32,000 people in the United States died in a motor vehicle crash.1
  • Almost 10,000 people died at the hands of alcohol-impaired drivers.2
  • More than 2.6 million drivers and passengers were treated in emergency departments after being in a motor vehicle crash.3

Putting Science into Action to Reduce Motor Vehicle Crashes

For more than 20 years, CDC’s Injury Center has helped protect Americans from violence and injury threats. We are the nation’s leading authority on violence and injury. We study violence and injuries and research the best ways to prevent them, applying science for real-world solutions to keep people safe, healthy, and productive.

Prevention Works

 Photo: Mother buckling infant into car seatcrash iconThe most comprehensive graduated drivers licensing programs are associated with reductions of 38% and 40% in fatal and injury crashes, respectively, among 16-year-old drivers.5

no alcohol icon

If all adult drivers in the U.S. had a blood alcohol concentration less than the illegal threshold (0.08%), 6,800 lives would have been saved in 2011.6

seatbelt icon In 2011, seat belts and child safety seats saved more than 12,000 lives.7

Our Strategies & Partnerships

Preventing motor vehicle-related injuries is one of the Injury Center’s focus areas. Here are just a few of the innovative strategies and strong partnerships we use to keep people safe on the road:

Monitoring the Problem to Inform Prevention

 Photo: a graph on a computer screenThe Injury Center uses in-depth data systems to document and monitor the burden of motor vehicle crashes on the nation, to identify research priorities, and to inform the creation of effective, science-based prevention policies and programs.

Learn More about Our Data Tools

Increasing Seat Belt Use

Photo: older adult couple in car

  • The Injury Center has created several tools that raise awareness about the effectiveness of seat belt policies. States use these tools in their efforts to strengthen policies to address this critical injury prevention issue:
    • The Vital Signs: Adult Seat Belt Use package highlights the importance of seat belt use. The Injury Center uses these materials to engage states, employers, health care professionals, and consumers in actions to increase the use of seat belts.
    • The Injury Center is providing technical assistance to selected state health departments to enhance existing expertise and build capacity to communicate best practices and evidence about seat belt use.

Learn More about Seat Belt Safety

Keeping Teens Safe on the Road

Photo: Son and Father in a car

  • The Injury Center translates science into practice through communications initiatives and publications that highlight the importance of parental monitoring and strong graduated driver licensing (GDL) systems:
    • The Parents Are the Key to Safe Teen Driving communications campaign tool kit gives parents, pediatricians, and community groups vital information and resources to help keep teens safe on the road.
    • Policy Impact: Teen Driver Safety describes the leading causes of teen motor vehicle crashes and details important components of GDL systems.
    • The Graduated Drivers License Planning Guide is a tool the Injury Center is pilot testing. The Guide helps states that want to strengthen their GDL systems to assess their capacity for doing so.

Learn More about Teen Driver Safety

Reducing Drinking and Driving

Photo: someone handing over the car keys

  • The Injury Center supports state efforts to keep drivers sober and safe by raising awareness about alcohol-impaired driving and identifying strong policies to prevent it.
    • Vital Signs: Drinking and Driving provides the latest findings on drinking and driving and issues a call to action for states, employers, health care professionals, and the public to help prevent this health threat.
    • Vital Signs: Teen Drinking and Driving provides findings on teen drinking and driving and suggests what states, health care professionals, parents, and teens can do to prevent it.
    • The Injury Center is partnering with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to evaluate state ignition interlock programs. Ignition interlocks prevent a person who has been consuming alcohol from starting a vehicle.

Learn More about Impaired Driving

Improving Road Safety for Native Americans

Photo: Native American teen girl behind the wheel of a carBuilding on recent successes in improving motor vehicle safety in tribal areas, the Injury Center is funding eight American Indian/Native American Tribes to design, implement, and evaluate tailored, culturally appropriate road safety interventions in their communities. Results will be used to develop a best practices manual for U.S. tribal communities.

Learn More about Native American Road Safety

Collaborating with Global Partners

Photo: cars and bikes on a busy global road
  • The Injury Center supports surveillance and evaluation activities for the Global Helmet Vaccine Initiative, a campaign focused on increasing motorcycle helmet use, in Cambodia and Uganda.
  • Working with countries throughout Africa and Asia (including, Botswana, China, Kenya, Tanzania, and Thailand), the Injury Center provides support to help build injury research capacity, improve injury surveillance systems, and develop skills to evaluate injury prevention programs and policies.
  • The Injury Center collaborates with the United Nations and the World Health Organization to focus worldwide attention on road safety. This partnership encourages other countries to strengthen their efforts to reduce motor vehicle-related injuries and deaths.

Learn More about Global Road Safety

CDC Works 24/7 to Save Lives and Protect People

CDC’s Injury Center is committed to saving lives, protecting people, and lowering the health and societal costs of motor vehicle-related injuries. Our goal is to offer individuals, communities, and states timely, accurate information and useful tools and resources to keep people safe on the road. Take action today by learning more about ways you can protect yourself and others from motor vehicle-related injuries!

Learn More


  1. U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Traffic Safety Facts: 2011 Data: Overview. Washington (DC): NHTSA; 2013. [accessed 2013 May 24]. Available from:       
  2. U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Traffic Safety Facts: Alcohol-impaired Driving. Table 1. Washington (DC): NHTSA; 2012. [accessed 2013 May 24]. Available from:
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS). Atlanta, GA [accessed 2013 May 24]. Available from:
  4. Naumann RB, Dellinger AM, Zaloshnja E, Lawrence BA, Miller TR. Incidence and total lifetime costs of motor vehicle-related fatal and nonfatal injury by road user type, United States, 2005. Traffic Inj Prev 2010;11:353-60. Also see Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC Vital Signs. Adult Seat Belt Use in the US: Latest Findings. [updated 2011 Jan 4; accessed 2011 Nov 10].  Available from:
  5. Baker SP, Chen L, Li G. Nationwide review of graduated driver licensing. Washington (DC): AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety; 2007. Available from:
  6. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety/Highway Loss Data Institute. Q&A: Alcohol--general. [accessed 2013 May 24]. Available from:
  7. U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Traffic Safety Facts: 2011 Data. Occupant Protection. Washington (DC): NHTSA; 2013.  [accessed 2013 May 24]. Available from:
  8. Sleet DA, Ballesteros MF. Chapter 2: Injuries and Safety. In: CDC Health Information for International Travel, 2012. Oxford University Press, 2012. [accessed 2013 May 23]. Available from: