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Study: Motor vehicle accident deaths

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The Daily

Wednesday, July 16, 2008
1979 to 2004

Despite the ever-increasing number of vehicles on the roads, half as many Canadians were killed in a motor vehicle accident in 2004 as there had been 25 years earlier. Even so, motor vehicle accidents remain a leading cause of death for young people, a new study shows.

The study "Motor vehicle accident deaths, 1979 to 2004," published today in Health Reports, showed that during the past quarter-century, 97,964 people were killed in motor vehicle accidents. The annual number of deaths fell 52% from 5,933 in 1979 to 2,875 in 2004.

Sharp declines were detected even after adjusting for the aging of the population, suggesting that factors other than demographics are behind the drop. Almost three-quarters (71%) of the people who died in these accidents were male.

The study examined motor vehicle accident deaths in Canada from 1979 through 2004, with a more in-depth look from 2000 through 2004. Data came from the Canadian vital statistics database, composed of information from death certificates. Pedestrian and bicycle fatalities were included if a motor vehicle was involved. Motor vehicles include those often found "off road" such as snowmobiles and all-terrain vehicles, agricultural and construction vehicles.

Motorists who were at either end of the age spectrum (young people and the elderly) had higher-than-average death rates. Senior pedestrians experienced higher rates as well.

Teens and young adults

From 2000 through 2004, 14,082 people died in a motor vehicle accident in Canada. Of these, 3,417, or nearly one-quarter (24%), were aged 15 to 24.

Nationally, the rate of death from motor vehicle accidents for all age groups combined was 9.0 deaths per 100,000 population. However, at ages 15 to 24, the rate was significantly above the national average at 16.0 deaths per 100,000 population. In contrast, the rate was much lower than the national average for children aged 14 or younger.


Regardless of age group, males consistently had higher death rates from a motor vehicle accident than did females.

Young men aged 15 to 24 were particularly at risk, with a rate of 22.8 deaths per 100,000, compared with 8.8 deaths per 100,000 among women of the same age.


Among seniors, the rate of death from a motor vehicle accident from 2000 through 2004 was 13.2 per 100,000 population. This was higher than the national rate of 9.0 per 100,000 for the total population and second only to the rate for 15- to 24-year-olds.

As pedestrians, seniors were also vulnerable. From 2000 through 2004, 1,746 pedestrians died in accidents involving motor vehicles; over one-third of them (636) were 65 or older. The average annual death rate among seniors from this cause was over 3 per 100,000 population, significantly higher than the rate for any other age group.


From 2000 through 2004, deaths were generally more numerous in the summer, perhaps reflecting a peak period for holiday road travel.

During the five-year study period, an average of just under 8 Canadians died each day in motor vehicle accidents. Deaths peaked in August 2004, with an average of more than 10 fatalities each day.

Deaths by province and territory

From 2000 through 2004, rates of death from motor vehicle accidents were significantly below the national average of 9.0 per 100,000 population in only two provinces: Newfoundland and Labrador and Ontario.

Yukon had the highest death rate from motor vehicle accidents in the country at 16.4 deaths per 100,000 population, followed by Saskatchewan at 14.4.

Definitions, data sources and methods: survey number 3233.

The article, "Motor vehicle accident deaths, 1979 to 2004," which is part of today's Health Reports, Vol. 19, no. 3 (82-003-XWE, free) online release, is now available from the Publications module of our website.

For more information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Pamela L. Ramage-Morin (613-951-1760;, Health Information and Research Division.

For more information about Health Reports, contact Christine Wright (613-951-1765;, Health Information and Research Division.