Motor-vehicle accidents constitute the major cause of accidental death in the U.S. 54,800 motor-vehicle deaths occurred in 1970, and it is estimated that 2 million persons suffered disabling injuries in a listed total of 16 million accidents. Since 1912, the number of deaths has declined by 85 percent, from 33 to 5 per 10,000 registered vehicles; in that year 950,000 vehicles were registered, while 1970 saw approximately Ill million registrations.
The total cost of motor-vehicle accidents in 1970 has been placed above $13.5 billion, Approximately two-thirds of all deaths occurred in areas described as rural, and in urban areas pedestrians accounted for about 40 percent of fatalities.
Two factors cited by traffic authorities as major contributing causes of fatal motor-vehicle accidents are drinking of alcohol and driving too fast. Drinking has been linked to at leaét half of the deaths, and excessive speed was reported to have been involved in 30 percent of the fatal accidents. About 7 out of 8 of all passenger vehicles are now equipped with safety belts, but authorities estimate that the belts are in use only about 40 percent of all driving time. Safety belts were responsible for saving about 3,000 lives in 1970, and it is suggested that the optimal use of belts would prevent up to 10,000 fatalities each year.