USDOT: 2001 Highway Fatality Statistics Show Deaths are Down

Aug. 8, 2002
The fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled (VMT) decreased slightly in 2001, says the U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The fatality rate was 1.52 in 2001, a small reduction from the final 2000 rate of 1.53.

The total number of people killed in highway crashes in 2001 was 42,116, compared to 41,945 in 2000. However, the drop in the 2001 fatality rate occurred because fatalities remained relatively constant despite an increase in vehicle miles traveled. In 2001, vehicle miles traveled increased slightly to 2.778 trillion, up from 2.75 trillion in 2000, according to preliminary estimates from the Department's Federal Highway Administration.

On a very positive note, motor vehicle crashes in 2001 claimed the lives of fewer children ages 15 and under than any time in record-keeping history.

"Though the loss of more than 42,000 people is unacceptable, the news about the nation's young people is positive," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta. "Clearly, parents and caregivers are getting the message about the importance of proper restraints for children of all ages."

The 2001 statistics also continue to show the increased risk of death and injury when drivers and passengers do not wear seat belts or fail to have their children properly restrained in child safety seats: 60 percent of the passenger vehicle occupants killed in crashes last year were not restrained.

"There is no more effective safety device than a seat belt or child safety seat," said NHTSA Administrator Jeffrey W. Runge, M.D. "It often makes the difference between life and death in a serious crash."

NHTSA's Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) also shows that in 2001:

  • Motorcycle fatalities increased for the fourth year in a row following years of steady improvement. With 3,181 killed in 2001, it was the highest number of motorcycle fatalities since 1990. For the first time since 1997, younger motorcyclists, that is, riders under the age of 40, posted the highest percentage increases in fatalities.
  • The rate of alcohol-related deaths in 2001 remained unchanged at 0.63 per 100 million VMT for a total of 17,448 deaths.
  • Fatalities in crashes involving large trucks dropped from 5,282 in 2000 to 5,082 in 2001.
  • The number of pedestrians killed, 4,882, increased slightly from 4,763.
  • Young drivers (16-20) were involved in slightly fewer fatal crashes, 7,598, in 2001 compared to 7,671 in 2000.
  • Passenger vehicle occupant fatalities in single vehicle rollover crashes increased 2.3 percent to 8,400. Pickup trucks accounted for the largest percentage increase - 4.2 percent.

NHTSA annually collects crash data from 50 states and the District of Columbia to produce an annual report on traffic crash trends. To view a summary of the 2001 crash statistics on the Internet, go to Under "Popular Information" click on "Crash Statistics" and then click on "Motor Vehicle Traffic Crashes/Fatality and Injury Estimates for 2001." Printed reports will be published later this year.

About the Author

Sandy Smith

Sandy Smith is the former content director of EHS Today, and is currently the EHSQ content & community lead at Intelex Technologies Inc. She has written about occupational safety and health and environmental issues since 1990.

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