Motor vehicle crash deaths*

Number of motor vehicle crash deaths per 100,000 population.

The 2021 County Health Rankings used data from 2013-2019 for this measure.

Reason for Including

Motor vehicle crashes are one of the leading causes of death in the US with almost 100 people dying every day.[1] Medical care costs and productivity losses with injuries and deaths from motor vehicle crashes exceeded $75 billion in 2017.[2] Deaths from motor vehicle crashes may be the result of poorly designed roadways, impaired drivers, and/or unsafe weather conditions. Distracted drivers cause about 9% of traffic fatalities.[3,4]

Key Measure Methods

Motor Vehicle Crash Deaths is a Rate

Motor Vehicle Crash Deaths is the number of deaths due to traffic accidents involving a motor vehicle per 100,000 population. Rates measure the number of events (e.g., deaths, births, etc.) in a given time period (generally one or more years) divided by the average number of people at risk during that period. Rates help us compare health data across counties with different population sizes.

Deaths are Counted in the County of Residence for the Person Who Died, Rather than the County Where the Death Occurred

It is important to note that deaths are counted in the county of residence of the deceased. So, even if a motor vehicle crash death occurred across the state, the death is counted in the home county of the individual who died.

Motor Vehicle Crash Deaths Methodology Has Changed

Prior to the 2013 County Health Rankings, non-traffic motor vehicle accidents were included in the definition of motor vehicle crash deaths. Starting in 2013, the County Health Rankings changed the definition of motor vehicle crash deaths to exclude non-traffic accidents to better align with Healthy People 2020.

Some Data are Suppressed

A missing value is reported for counties with fewer than 10 motor vehicle crash deaths in the time frame.


The numerator includes traffic accidents involving motorcycles, 3-wheel motor vehicles, cars, vans, trucks, buses, street cars, ATVs, industrial, agricultural, and construction vehicles, and bicyclists or pedestrians when colliding with any of these vehicles, over a 7-year period (ICD10 codes: V02-V04 (.1, .9), V09.2, V12-V14 (.3-.9), V19 (.4-.6), V20-V28 (.3-.9), V29-V79 (.4-.9), V80 (.3-.5), V81.1, V82.1, V83-V86 (.0-.3), V87 (.0-.8), and V89.2). Deaths due to boating accidents and airline crashes are not included in the numerator.


The denominator is the aggregate annual population over the 7-year period.

Can This Measure Be Used to Track Progress

This measure can be used to measure progress with some caveats. It is important to note that the estimate provided in the County Health Rankings is a 7-year average. However, in most counties, it is relatively simple to obtain single year estimates from the resource included below. Motor Vehicle Crash Deaths data can also be further broken down by year and vehicle type or pedestrian involvement. These breakdowns could help measure the impact of interventions specific to motor vehicle crash prevention.

Data Source

Years of Data Used


National Center for Health Statistics - Mortality Files

Data on deaths and births were provided by NCHS and drawn from the National Vital Statistics System (NVSS). These data are submitted to the NVSS by the vital registration systems operated in the jurisdictions legally responsible for registering vital events (i.e., births, deaths, marriages, divorces, and fetal deaths). In prior years of the Rankings, Premature Death was calculated by the National Center for Health Statistics, but this year the Mortality-All County (micro-data) file was requested. This allowed us to calculate Premature Death and Life Expectancy ourselves. While most calculations of mortality rates can be downloaded from CDC WONDER, the calculation of Years of Potential Life Lost and Life Expectancy requires raw data files. 

Digging Deeper
Age 1
Gender 1
Race 1
Education 0
Income 0
Subcounty Area 0

We recommend starting with the CDC Wonder database, which contains information on motor vehicle crash death rates by race, ethnicity, age, gender, geography, and more. Rates can be exported as raw or age-adjusted. Small counties might need to combine multiple years of data to see rates, as CDC suppresses any rates when there are fewer than 10 deaths.

In addition, many states support databases of motor vehicle-related hospitalizations or emergency department visits. You can find links to these databases in State-Specific Data Sources.


[1] National Center for Statistics and Analysis. (2017, October). 2016 fatal motor vehicle crashes: Traffic Safety Facts Research Note. Report No. DOT HS 812 456. Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

[2] Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Motor Vehicle Safety – Cost Data and Prevention Policies. Accessed December 7, 2019.  

[3] National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 2013. Traffic Safety Facts: Distracted Driving 2016 (Report No. DOT-HS-812-517). NHTSA, Washington, DC.

[4] Caird, J. K., Johnston, K. A., Willness, C. R., Asbridge, M., & Steel, P. (2014). A meta-analysis of the effects of texting on driving. Accident Analysis & Prevention71, 311-318.

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