How Common are Car Accidents? How Many People Die on the Roads?

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Someone very close to me is scared of flying. I personally have never had an issue with it and actually enjoy being up in the air, but I can understand the fear of not being in control and knowing that a crash means death. One of the ways I tried to ease her concerns in the beginning was by telling her that she was more likely to die in a car accident on the way to the airport than in the plane itself.

This didn’t seem to change her one way or the other, but the more I said it, the more I researched into it and the more I realized it was true, the less I wanted to make any trip to the airport. Or anywhere else for that matter. These days, I am actually more comfortable in a plane than I am in a car.

And because I’m nice and want to share my paranoia, I’m going to list a few of those terrifying stats here. You can thank me later, when you can no longer drive to work because you lose control of your bladder every time you start the ignition and because you can’t help but think that the slightly swaying Subaru on the next lane will be the death of you.

Scary Stats Worldwide

Over 1.3 million people die in car accidents a year. That’s over 3,200 deaths every single day. And that’s just the deaths, not the crashes, because a further 20 million to 50 million people are severely injured and/or disabled because of a road traffic collision. These numbers are increasing as well, because even though cars are getting safer, we’re all driving more than ever before and for many accidents it just doesn’t matter how seemingly safe your car is.

People die at all times of the day. It rarely matters what their experience is and where they were going. And it goes without saying that if you drive for a living, your chances increase considerably. You might be a skilled driver, but you’re always at risk because you’re constantly surrounded by drivers who are not, drivers who operate high-speed weapons. The only real way to avoid it is to devote your life to an alternative career (I hear Amtrak are hiring).

In the US

I’m in the UK, where the most common cause of death for a young person is a road traffic accident. Having witnessed the youth car culture first-hand, I can completely understand this. But what happens when you discount this country, and what happens when you exclude countries that are notorious for chaos on the roads, such as India?

In other words, is it that bad if we just focus on the US? Well, to put it simply, yes it is. In the US, close to 40,000 people die on the road every year, with nearly 2.5 million inquired. Over 1,500 of those deaths are children under the age of 15, while a further 8,000 are between the ages of 16 and 20.

The cost to the country is over $230 billion, which equates to around $800 per person. That’s roughly the cost of a beaten-up car and is enough to get you on the road. But judging by those figures, you should probably book a plane ticket instead.

Road vs Air

Looking at the above stats, it’s easy to see how more likely you are to die from a road traffic accident than an airplane crash. But the numbers may still surprise you. The truth is, the odds of dying on some flights is 1 in 5 million. This means you would need to make the same flight every day for nearly 15,000 years just to have a probable chance of popping your clogs.

Of course, different planes have different probability. Generally, the smaller it is, the more chance there is. The route also comes into play, but no matter how you look at it, you’re safer in the air. In 2013, more than 3 billion people flew, yet there were only 210 fatalities. While the odds of dying in a plane crash is 1 in millions, the odds of dying in a car crash in 1 in the tens of thousands.

Not only are you more likely to die from a road traffic accident than a plane crash, but it’s also more likely than suicide, hypertensive heart disease, stomach cancer, colorectal cancer, breast cancer, violence, drowning, poisoning, falls, and Alzheimer’s disease.

So, there’s some pleasant reading before you take your next trip.