A Comparison of Risk
Jan 1, 2004


Accidental Deaths - United States - 1999-2003


Type 5 Yr. Average General Populationb
Risk Per Year
Risk Based on Exposure
or Other Measures
Motor Vehicle5 36,676 1 out of 7,700 1.3 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles c,d
Poisoning 9 15,206 1 out of 18,700  
Work Related 7 5,800 1 out of 49,000 4.3 deaths per 100,000 workers
Large Trucks 5 5,150 1 out of 55,000 2.5 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles
Pedestrian 5 4,846 1 out of 58,000  
Drowning 9 3,409 1 out of 83,500  
Fires 9 3,312 1 out of 86,000  
Motorcycles 5 3,112 1 out of 91,500 31.3 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles
Railroads 3 931 1 out of 306,000 1.3 deaths per million train miles
Firearms 9 779 1 out of 366,000  
Recreational Boating 8 714 1 out of 399,000 5.6 deaths per 100,000 registered boats
Bicycles 5 695 1 out of 410,000  
Electric Current 10 410 1 out of 695,000  
Air Carriers 2 138a 1 out of 2,067,000 1.9 deaths per 100 million aircraft miles
Flood 4 58 1 out of 4,928,000  
Tornado 4 57 1 out of 5,015,000  
Lightning 4 47 1 out of 6,061,000  
HAZMAT Transportation 1 12 1 out of 23,350,000 4.2 deaths per 100 million shipments
  1. Hazardous Materials Incident Data, Department of Transportation, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.
  2. National Transportation Statistics, Department of Transportation¿s Bureau of Transportation Statistics. Air carrier data was calculated for all air carriers operating under either 14 CFR 121 or 14 CFR 135. Data used in this comparison was from air carriers operating under 14 CFR 121, which includes large aircraft, and under 14 CFR 135, which includes aircraft with less than 10 seats. Passenger and cargo aircraft are included in both categories.
  3. National Transportation Statistics, Department of Transportation¿s Bureau of Transportation Statistics. Railroad fatality statistics include railroad only fatalities and grade crossing fatalities. Mileage data used was for Railroad System Safety and Property Damage Data.
  4. U.S. Natural Hazard Statistics, National Weather Service. The National Weather Service is a program of the Department of Commerce¿s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
  5. Traffic Safety Facts 2004, Department of Transportation¿s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Motor vehicle fatalities are limited to occupant fatalities and exclude related fatalities to pedestrians, bicyclists, and others. On average, including fatalities to other than motor vehicle occupants in motor vehicle accidents would add approximately 5,500 fatalities to the motor vehicle fatality total. Large trucks are defined as having a gross vehicle weight greater than 10,000 pounds. Truck related fatalities are also counted in the overall motor vehicle category. FHWA-RD-89-013, Present Practices of Highway Transportation of Highway Material, Harwood and Russell, indicates about 5% of truck accidents reported to the FHWA involved trucks carrying hazardous materials. Applying this percentage to overall hazardous materials transportation yields a risk of about 260 fatalities related to general truck transportation risk apart from risks related to the particular hazards of the materials themselves.
  6. Fatality data obtained from the Census of Fatal and Occupational Injuries, Department of Labor¿s Bureau of Labor Statistics (2003 and 1999-2002). Workforce data obtained from the Current Population Survey, Department of Labor¿s Bureau of Labor Statistics. Workforce risk calculated using the total employed civilian work force.
  7. Boating Statistics ¿ 2003, United States Coat Guard.
  8. WISQARS (Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System) Injury Mortality Reports 1999 - 2003, Department of Health and Human Services¿ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Only unintentional fatalities were used in this report. Fire data was limited to fire/flame fatalities and excluded fatalities due to contact with hot objects/substances.
  9. Injury Facts, National Safety Council. 2004, 2005/2006, and 2007 editions used to compile data.
  1. Other than the persons aboard the aircraft who were killed, fatalities resulting from the September 11 terrorist acts are excluded.
  2. An average of approximately 285,000,000 over the period was used in computations.
  3. Deaths per passenger mile should also be considered as a basic risk measure when comparing risks amongst various modes of transportation. Since the average number of passengers in an aircraft far exceeds the average number of passengers in a motor vehicle, the passenger mile risk of air carrier transportation is significantly less than that of motor vehicle transportation.
  4. The fatality rate in currently about 1.3 fatalities per 100,000,000 vehicle miles in 1999-2003, or about 1 fatality per 77,000,000 miles. Another way of looking at this is that if a person drove about 770,000 miles in their lifetime (15,500 miles per year for 50 years), there is about 1 in 100 chance that person will die as a result of an automobile accident during their lifetime.