How many people die in car accidents?

Sometimes you’ll see the answer to that question flashing on a billboard on the highway. It’s also in the DOT’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) database, a census of fatality accidents on public roads in all fifty states and the District of Columbia. You can use the data to find out where accidents occurred, and answer questions such as: How many people were involved? Were they wearing seatbelts? How many hit and runs occurred in my area? Were drugs or alcohol involved? Did the driver have a history of traffic offenses or license suspensions?

The FARS database consists of eighteen tables and more than 500 fields that include a wealth of detail about all the vehicles and persons involved (not only drivers and passengers, but also cyclists and pedestrians), and the conditions that led to the accident (as reported by the police on scene). Crashes involving trucks and trailers are also included.

Get the data from NICAR

The NICAR Data Library has updated FARS to include reports through 2014, the most recent year available, going back to 1975, when FARS was first established. IRE members can purchase the data online: https://www.ire.org/nicar/database-library/databases/dot-fatality-analysis-reporting-system-fars/. Non-members should contact the Data Library staff at [email protected] or (573) 884-7711.

Before purchasing, you can read the NICAR-created Readme file and download the layout for the main tables

You can also get a simplified version of the FARS data in a single table; we’ll be releasing the newest data in simplified form very soon. 

Get tips on how to use the data in your reporting

For story ideas and more, browse the IRE tipsheets: 

Contact the Data Library for more information: email us at [email protected] or call (573) 882-1982.