What Are the Odds of Getting in a Car Accident?
Last Updated on November 28, 2022
When shopping for car insurance, it’s important to consider risk – including your risk of getting in a car accident.
Approximately 7 in 10 motorists in the United States will be involved in at least one accident in their lifetime, according to one study. However, millions of motorists go their entire lives without a single accident.
What are the odds of getting in a car accident? What factors impact risk? Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about the odds of getting in a car accident.
- Roughly 70% of Americans Experience at Least One Car Accident in Their Lifetime
- How Accident Statistics Work
- Factors that Impact the Odds of a Car Accident
- Final Word – Car Accident Odds
Roughly 70% of Americans Experience at Least One Car Accident in Their Lifetime
Based on insurer research, roughly 70% of Americans experience at least one car accident in their lifetime.
Millions of drivers across the country are never involved in accidents. They start driving a car in their teens and go their entire lives without a single accident.
However, most drivers are involved in one or more accidents at least once in their life. The majority of Americans (70%) have experienced at least one accident in their life.
Insurance is all about risk. To determine risk, insurers look at decades of driving history and accident statistics.
In fact, insurers estimate that the average driver will be involved in an accident roughly every 18 years. That means the average driver can expect 3 to 4 accidents in their driving career.
How Accident Statistics Work
Your risk of getting into a car accident varies based on thousands of factors – from your age and reaction time to your daily commute to work.
The IIHS publishes annual fatality facts that make it easy to see how different factors impact accident rates. The CDC also collects driving data. Together, these databases reveal crucial insight into the odds of getting into a car accident.
Here are some of the most important accident rate statistics from the IIHS and CDC:
- There were 35,766 fatal motor vehicle crashes in the United States in 2020; a total of 38,824 deaths occurred in those crashes
- Overall, the United States had 11.7 deaths per 100,000 people, and 1.34 deaths per 100 million miles traveled
- Fatality rates varied widely by state; Massachusetts had a low of 4.9 deaths per 100,000 people, for example, while Mississippi had 25.4 deaths per 100,000 people
- The death rate per 100 million miles traveled ranged from 0.63 in Massachusetts to 1.97 in South Carolina
- Vehicle accident death rates have declined over time; in 1937, for example, there were 29.36 fatalities per 100,000 population – the highest year on record
- From the 1990s to 2000s, there were roughly 14 to 18 fatalities per 100,000 population; since 2008, the accident rate ranged from a low of 10.28 (in 2014) to a high of 12.89 (in 2021)
Overall, accident rates change from year to year. 2021 had a significantly higher number of fatal accidents compared to the last decade, although numbers are still significantly lower than historic levels.
Factors that Impact the Odds of a Car Accident
Based on research from the CDC and IIHS, certain factors significantly impact risk. Depending on these factors, you might have a very high – or very low – chance of getting in an accident.
Here are some of the risk factors that impact the odds of a car accident:
Older Adults Have a Much Higher Risk of Accidents
Drivers aged 70+ have higher crash death rates per 1,000 crashes than middle-aged drivers (drivers between 35 and 54). However, these higher crash death rates are related primarily to increased vulnerability to injury after a crash.
The CDC also attributes age-related changes in vision, physical function, the ability to reason and remember, disease, and medications, among other factors, to the increased likelihood of vehicle-related injury among older drivers.
There are more older adults on roads in the United States than at any previous point in history. In 2020, there were almost 48 million licensed drivers age 65 and older in the United States, a 68% increase since 2000.
Men Have Higher Fatal Accident Rates than Women
According to the CDC, males have substantially higher crash death rates across all age groups than females.
Young men also tend to be some of the riskiest (and most expensive) drivers to insure. Teenage men, for example, have higher accident rates than teenage women. As men get older, they tend to become safer drivers, and older men pay lower insurance premiums than older women. However, men of all ages have a higher risk of dying in fatal car accidents.
Some States Have 5x Higher Accident Rates than others
The United States is a diverse country with many different driving conditions. These driving conditions – and other factors – contribute to significant differences in state-by-state accident risk.
Massachusetts is the safest state for drivers overall. Massachusetts has the lowest fatality rate per 100,000 people (4.9) and the lowest death rate per 100 million miles traveled (0.63). You’re less likely to get into an accident in Massachusetts than in any state in the country.
In comparison, other states are significantly riskier for drivers. Mississippi, for example, has a fatality rate of 25.4 per 100,000 people – over five times higher than Massachusetts. Arkansas (21.2), Kentucky (17.3), Louisiana (17.8), Montana (19.6), New Mexico (18.8), Oklahoma (16.5), South Carolina (20.7), Tennessee (17.6), and Wyoming (22.0) had similarly high rates.
Type of Vehicle
The type of vehicle you drive also impacts your risk of a car accident or fatal accident. According to the IIHS, here are some of the ways vehicle type impacts accident risk:
- Wyoming had the highest percentage of deaths involving SUV and pickup occupants (48%) and the lowest percentage of deaths involving car occupants (21%), while Vermont had the highest percentage of deaths involving car occupants (44%) and a relatively low percentage of SUV and pickup occupants (16%)
Single-Vehicle Versus Multi-Vehicle Crashes
Some states have high numbers of single-vehicle accidents. These accidents could be linked to bad weather, poor driving habits, or other factors. Other states have high numbers of multi-vehicle accidents, which could be linked to bad traffic or population density.
Nationwide, approximately 55% of motor vehicle accident deaths in 2020 occurred in single-vehicle crashes, while 45% occurred in multi-vehicle crashes.
Montana and Rhode Island had the highest percentage of deaths in single-vehicle crashes (70%), while Delaware had the highest percentage of deaths from multi-vehicle crashes (53%).
Unsurprisingly, alcohol plays a significant role in accident risk and traffic facility statistics. Some states record BAC in virtually all crashes, while others rarely record BAC after a crash. 97% of crashes in Hawaii are linked to BAC data, for example, while just 11% of crashes in Mississippi have BAC data attached.
Some of the connections between BAC and accident rates, according to the IIHS, include:
- Rhode Island had the highest estimated percentage of fatally injured drivers with BACs of 0.08% or higher, with 50% of drivers involved in fatal accidents having a BAC over 0.08%
- Utah had the lowest estimated percentage of fatally injured drivers with BACs of 0.08% or higher, with just 18% of drivers exceeding the legal limit
Use of Seatbelts
Using seatbelts is associated with a lower risk of fatal accidents. If you regularly use a seatbelt, you are significantly less likely to be involved in a fatal accident, according to IIHS safety data.
Approximately 90% of drivers and passengers in the United States use seatbelts, according to the IIHS. The District of Columbia has the highest observed seatbelt use (96%), while South Dakota has the lowest (68%).
In 2020, just 44% of fatally injured occupants were restrained.
Rural Versus Urban Factors
Urban areas are denser and have more traffic, but rural areas tend to have higher rates of fatal accidents.
Nationwide, approximately 43% of motor vehicle crash deaths occurred in rural areas in 2020. That’s significant because most Americans do not live in rural areas. Montana (89%), Maine (80%), and Wyoming (80%) had the highest percentage of crash deaths on rural roads. In comparison, areas like the District of Columbia had 0% crash deaths in rural areas because it’s considered 100% urban.
Final Word – Car Accident Odds
Roughly 70% of Americans will be involved in an accident at some point in their lives.
Certain factors change your risk significantly. Your state, driving habits, age, gender, ZIP code, vehicle type, and more can all impact risk.
Contact your insurer to adjust your car insurance policy based on your perceived risk of an accident.