TD 3-1: Transportation Fatalities by Mode (Number of people)


The following definitions apply for air, rail and water data in Tables 3-1. Technical notes for Canadian data in Table 3-1 adhere to these definitions.

Aviation accident: A reportable aviation accident is an accident resulting directly from the operation of an aircraft where a person sustains a serious injury or is killed as a result of: being on board the aircraft; coming into contact with any part of the aircraft or its contents; being directly exposed to the jet blast or rotor down-wash of the aircraft; the aircraft sustaining damage that adversely affects the structural strength, performance or flight characteristics of the aircraft and that requires major repair or replacement of any affected component part; or the aircraft is missing or inaccessible.

Railway accident: A reportable railway accident is one resulting directly from the operation of rolling stock, where: (1) a person sustains a serious injury or is killed as a result of being on board or getting off the rolling stock or coming into contact with any part of the rolling stock or its contents; or (2) the rolling stock is involved in a grade-crossing collision, is involved in a collision or derailment and is carrying passengers; is involved in a collision or derailment and is carrying dangerous goods, or is known to have last contained dangerous goods the residue of which has not been purged from the rolling stock; sustains damage that affects its safe operation; or causes or sustains a fire or explosion, or causes damage to the railway, that poses a threat to the safety of any person, property or the environment.

Marine accident: A reportable marine accident means an accident resulting directly from the operation of a ship other than a pleasure craft, where a person sustains a serious injury or is killed as a result of: being on board the ship or falling overboard from the ship, or coming into contact with any part of the ship or its contents, or the ship sinks, founders or capsizes, is involved in a collision (which includes collisions, strikings or contacts), sustains a fire or an explosion, goes aground, sustains damage that affects its seaworthiness or renders it unfit for its purpose, or is missing or abandoned. In this definition, “ship” includes: a) every description of vessel, boat or craft designed, used or capable of being used solely or partly for marine navigation without regard to method or lack of propulsion. For statistical purposes, these accidents are classified as “accidents aboard ship.” In addition, the definition of “ship” also includes dynamically supported craft. For statistical purposes, these are classified as “shipping accidents.” “Pleasure craft” means a vessel that is used for pleasure or recreation and does not carry goods or passengers for hire or reward.

Air: Air data in Table 3-1 is comprised of fatalities occurring during scheduled and nonscheduled passenger and all-cargo flights of Canadian registered aircraft involved in accidents in domestic and international airspace. Fatalities that occur on the ground are excluded from the statistics.

Air carrier: Air carrier data in Table 3-1 are compiled according to regulatory definitions of registered aircraft types established by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada and include the following types of Canadian registered aircraft used by Canadian air operators that offer a “for-hire” service to transport people or goods, or to undertake specific tasks such as aerial photography, flight training and crop spraying:

(1) An airliner is an airplane used by a Canadian air operator in an air transport service or in aerial work involving sightseeing operations, that has a maximum take-off weight (MCTOW) of more than 8,618 kg. (19,000 pounds) or for which a Canadian-type certificate has been issued authorizing the transport of 20 or more passengers.

(2) A commuter aircraft is an airplane used by a Canadian air operator, in an air transport service or in aerial work involving sightseeing operations, of any of the following aircraft: a) a multi-engined aircraft that has a maximum take-off weight (MCTOW) of 8,618 kg (19,000 pounds) or less and a seating configuration, excluding pilot seats, of 10 to 19 inclusive; or b) a turbo-jet-powered aeroplane that has a maximum zero fuel weight of 22,680 kg. (50,000 pounds) or less and for which a Canadian type certificate has been issued authorizing the transport of not more than 19 passengers.

(3) An air taxi or specialty aircraft is an airplane used by a Canadian operator on an on-hire basis that does not satisfy the definition of an airliner or a commuter aircraft. Air carrier data also may include fatalities and injuries from charter aircraft operations.

General aviation: General aviation data in Table 3-1 is compiled according to regulatory definitions established by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada and includes fatalities on ultra-light aircraft, private and commercial helicopter operations and from flights that do not transport people or cargo on a “for-hire” basis.

Road: Road data for passenger cars and light trucks include statistics for automobiles and light trucks (pick-ups, sports utility vehicles and mini-vans). Motorcycle data include both mopeds and motorcycles. Data for heavy trucks include straight trucks greater than 4,536 kilograms, (a straight truck has a configuration where both the vehicle’s power unit and cargo storage unit share the same chassis), tractor-trailers and other unspecified trucks. Road data for other types of road fatalities include all other vehicle types and nonvehicle occupants involved in a motor vehicle traffic collision. Road data for Canadian motor vehicle fatalities are derived from the Canadian Traffic Accident Information Database (TRAID). TRAID is a collection of data pertaining to traffic collisions provided annually to Transport Canada by Canada’s ten provinces and two territories. These collisions are all those deemed reportable; i.e., they occur on public roads and incur bodily harm and/or property damage exceeding a stipulated dollar threshold. This threshold is determined independently by each provincial and territorial jurisdiction. The accident segment contains general data about the accident scene such as road conditions and summary accident statistics such as the total number of persons killed. Each accident within each province and each calendar year has a unique case number. The vehicle segment contains vehicle specific data such as the vehicle type and the vehicle actions prior to and during the collision. Each vehicle involved in the collision will have a separate vehicle segment. Therefore, if there are two vehicles involved there will be two different vehicle segments associated with that collision. Each of these vehicles will have a unique vehicle identification number.

Water transport, commercial: Water data for both commercial passenger vessels and commercial freight vessels include both Canadian and foreign flag vessels operating in Canadian waters. Data for commercial passenger vessels include cruises and ferries. Data for commercial freight vessels include cargo/container, bulk carrier/OBO (Ore-Bulk-Oil) carrier, tanker, tug, barge/pontoon and fishing vessels. Data for commercial freight vessels exclude research vessels, oil exploration and support ships.

Water transport, recreational boats: Water data for recreational boating include drownings from recreational, daily living, occupational, rescue and unknown purposes, as well as other fatal boating injuries including immersion, hypothermia, collisions and propeller injuries. The source for this information is The National Drowning Report, which is produced in collaboration with the Canadian Red Cross Society and presents a national compilation of statistics from coroner offices across Canada concerning the circumstances of drowning and other water-related injury deaths in Canada. The data in this National Drowning Report were obtained from the Canadian Surveillance System for Water-Related Fatalities. This system was developed by the Canadian Red Cross Society in collaboration with several other organizations including the Lifesaving Society, the Injury Prevention Program of the Montreal Public Health Department, and the National Association of Coroners. Data concerning fatalities for 1990 is nonexistent.



Data for 1997 are not available because in 1996 the questionnaire through which this information was collected had some modifications; as consequence, data collected had certain characteristics that do not allow their use as reliable statistics. During the next months several changes will be incorporated into the questionnaire in order to improve data quality.

Air: Data represent fatalities arising from general aviation accidents or incidents in general and commercial aviation recorded within Mexico, and includes passenger and crew fatalities at the site of the accident and those that died later, independent of whether they were national or foreign aircraft and regardless of the type of service (freight or passenger).

Road: figures included in Table 3-1 correspond to the number of deaths at the accident site, so the number of deaths by type of vehicles refers only to those accidents which occurred in urban and suburban areas.

Until 2009 the number of deaths recorded on roads in federal jurisdiction is added directly to the overall total of road transport because no breakdown is available of the number of deaths by type of vehicle. As result, the sum of the parts does not match the general total.  As of 2010, it became possible to identify the number of deaths according to the categories listed. Moreover, the number of victims recorded in the sub-category of “passenger cars” is included in the number of fatalities recorded in “passenger cars and light trucks”.

The sub-category “other” includes accidents by trolley buses, trams, bicycles and other means of transport.

Rail: Data include only fatalities from accidents occurred at grade crossing, namely those accidents that occur at the crossing between a railroad and another type of road.

Water: In the case of Mexico, the record of fatalities is made as a result of accidents that happen within the national territory both in national as well as foreign boats and comprises all type of passengers, freight, fisheries and pleasure vessels. Also, these are registered at the moment of the accident and include those persons who died during the month in which the report is made.

  United States

Cross-modal comments: Revised numbers are revised from the original sources. Primary source did not provide any explanation for revision. For 1995-2001, a death is attributed to a transportation incident if the death occurred up to 30 days after the incident. For 1990, this may not be true for all modes, but this definition has applied in the Road mode since September of 1978.

Caution must be exercised in comparing U.S. fatalities across modes, because significantly different definitions for reportable events are used among the modes. In particular, rail and transit fatalities include deaths and injuries that are not, strictly speaking, caused by transportation accidents, but are caused by such events as a fall on a transit station escalator, or, for railroad employees, a fire in a work shed. Similar fatalities for the air and highway modes (deaths at airports not involving aircraft, or fatalities from accidents in automobile repair shops) are not counted towards the totals for these modes. Counting fatalities not necessarily directly related to transportation potentially overstates the risk for the rail and transit modes. For the waterborne mode, fatalities from vessel casualties are counted in the total, and other fatalities are not counted. (Vessel casualties are incidents involving damage to vessels, for example, from collisions, groundings, fires or explosions.) Fatalities not from vessel casualties include, for example, deaths from accidents involving on-board equipment. Thus, fatalities for the waterborne mode are potentially understated. See the National Transportation Statistics (NTS)-01 for a description of what constitutes a reportable fatality for each mode. In addition, the numbers for total fatalities are less than the sum of the modal totals for the United States because some deaths are reported and counted in more than one mode. To avoid double counting, the following components have been counted only once in arriving at the overall totals shown in Tables 3-1

(1) Rail-highway grade crossing fatalities involving motor vehicles: These are counted in both the rail and road modes, and are included in both modal totals.

(2) Commuter rail fatalities arising from incidents: These are counted in both the rail and the transit modes, and are included in both modal totals.

(3) Motor bus fatalities arising from accidents: These are counted in both the road and the transit modes, and are included in both modal totals.

(4) Demand response and vanpool fatalities arising from accidents: These are counted in both the road and the transit modes, and included in both modal totals.

For additional information, refer to table 2-1 in the National Transportation Statistics or the National Transportation Statistics-1999 to see exactly how these adjustments have been made to the fatality totals. Note that incidents include accidents; that is, accidents are a subset of incidents. See below under the individual modal comments on transit and rail for more complete definitions of incidents and accidents. Data on highway-rail grade crossing fatalities that involved motor vehicles are provided in the annual issues of the Federal Railroad’s Administration’s Highway-Rail Crossing Accident/Incident and Inventory Bulletin. (See above for the full citation.) Data on transit accidents and incidents by submode are provided in the National Transportation Statistics, tables 2-32 and 2-33.

Air: Air carriers include all U.S. flag carriers, comprising both scheduled and nonscheduled flights, both domestic and international flights, and both passenger and all-cargo flights. Commuters and on-demand air taxis are included. U.S. air fatality and injury data are based on reports from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). NTSB investigators perform onsite and offsite investigation of all accidents involving U.S. registered air carriers and general aviation aircraft. Federal regulations require operators to notify the NTSB immediately of aviation accidents and certain incidents. According to the NTSB, a reportable accident “is defined as an occurrence associated with the operation of an aircraft that takes place between the time any person boards the aircraft with the intention of flight and all such persons have disembarked, and in which any person suffers death or serious injury, or in which the aircraft receives substantial damage.” Web site:

As stated above, the air safety data include both passenger and all-cargo flights. The National Transportation Safety Board’s web site at does not separate passenger flights from all-cargo flights. However, for flights operating under 14 CFR-121 (aircraft with more than 30 seats or a payload of more than 7,500 pounds), the detailed accident reports available on the web site make it clear which were all cargo flights. For smaller aircraft, particularly on-demand air taxis, it is not possible to infer with confidence how many were all cargo flights from the information available on the web site. For aircraft operating under CFR-121:

1990: 6 fatal accidents, of which 2 were all-cargo flights; 39 fatalities, of which 28 occurred as the result of an all-cargo aircraft crash. (Ground fatalities included.)

1995: 3 fatal accidents, of which 2 were all-cargo flights; 168 fatalities, of which 8 occurred as the result of an all-cargo aircraft crash. (Ground fatalities included.)

1996: 5 fatal accidents, of which 2 were all-cargo flights; 380 fatalities, of which 38 occurred as the result of an all-cargo aircraft crash. (Ground fatalities included.)

2001: Those in which an illegal act was responsible for an occurrence are included in this category. These acts, such as suicide and sabotage are included in the totals for accidents and fatalities but are excluded for the purpose of accident rate computation. Other than the persons aboard aircraft who were killed, fatalities resulting from the September 11 terrorist acts are excluded from this table.

It should also be noted that since March 20, 1997, 14 CFR-121 began to cover some smaller aircraft (i.e., aircraft with 10 or more seats) that were formerly regulated under 14 CFR-135, thus showing an increase in the number of Part 121 fatalities and a decrease in the number of commuter fatalities and accidents.

U.S. air carriers operating under 14 CFR Part 135 were previously referred to as Scheduled and Nonscheduled Services. Current tables now refer to these same air carries as Commuter Operations and On-Demand Operations.

Road: The data for passenger cars, light trucks, buses and large trucks are the number of occupants of these vehicles who have been killed in road crashes. In Table 3-1 Light Truck means trucks of 4,536 kg (i.e., 10,000 pounds) gross vehicle weight rating or less, and Large Truck means trucks of over 4,536 kg gross vehicle weight rating. Note that these definitions differ from those in some other tables in this publication. Buses include intercity buses, school buses and local transit buses. The subcategory of “other” represents pedalcyclists, other nonoccupants and unknown.

U.S. road fatality data come from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), and are compiled by FARS analysts at the regional offices of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). FARS analysts use a census of police accident reports, state vehicle registration files, state drivers licensing files, state highway department data, vital statistics, death certificates, coroner/medical examiner reports, hospital medical reports and emergency medical service reports. A separate form is completed for each fatal crash. Fatality data are continuously collected and electronically submitted to the NHTSA database. Cross verification of police reports with death certificates ensures that undercounting is rare. The FARS data do not include motor vehicle fatalities on nonpublic roads. However, previous NHTSA analysis has found that these fatalities account for 2 percent or fewer of the total motor vehicle fatalities per year.

U.S. road injury data come from the General Estimates System (GES) of the National Traffic Safety Administration at the U.S. Department of Transportation. The GES data are a nationally representative sample of police reported crashes involving at least one motor vehicle and resulting in injuries, fatalities and property damage in which a police accident report (PAR) was filled out. GES data collectors randomly sample PARs and forward copies to a central contractor for coding into a standard format for the GES system. Documents such as police diagrams or supporting text provided by the officer may be further reviewed to complete the data entry. Various sources suggest that about half of the motor vehicle crashes in the United States are not reported to police and that the majority of these unreported crashes involve minor property damage and no significant personal injury.

Pipeline: U.S. fatality data for pipeline in Table 3-1 are based on liquid (crude oil and petroleum products) and natural gas pipelines. Each of these is regulated under separate safety regulations by the Office of Pipeline Safety, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), at the U.S. Department of Transportation. For both liquid and natural gas pipelines, accidents are required to be reported as soon as possible, but no later than 30 days after discovery. Reports are sent to the Federal Office of Pipeline Safety’s Information Systems Manager. Possible sources of error include a release going undetected, even if such a release is subsequently detected and reported, it may not be possible to reconstruct the accident accurately.

Liquid pipeline: U.S. fatality data for liquid pipelines are derived from reports filed with the Office of Pipeline Safety. These reports are based on regulations that define a reportable accident for liquid pipelines as: “Each failure in a pipeline system… in which there is a release of the hazardous liquid or carbon dioxide transported resulting in any of the following: (a) explosion or fire not intentionally set by the operator; (b) loss of 50 or more barrels of hazardous liquid or carbon dioxide; (c) release to the atmosphere of more than five barrels a day of highly volatile liquids; (d) death of any person; and (e) bodily harm to any person; and (f) estimated property damage to the property of the operators or others, or both, exceeding $50,000. (For more information, refer to NTS-01).

Natural gas pipelines: U.S. fatality data for natural gas pipelines are based on reports filed with the Office of Pipeline Safety at the U.S. Department of Transportation. These reports conform with regulations from the same office that define a reportable accident for gas pipelines as any of the following events:

(1) An event that involves the release of gas from a pipeline or liquefied natural gas or gas from an LNG facility and

(i) a death, or personal injury necessitating inpatient hospitalization; or

(ii) estimated property damage, including cost of gas lost, of the operator or others, or both, of $50,000 or more.

(2) An event that results in an emergency shutdown of an LNG facility.

(3) An event that is significant, in the judgment of the operator, even though it did not meet the criteria of paragraphs (1) or (2).

Railroad: Railroad data include intercity passenger, freight rail and commuter rail fatalities and injuries. Note that commuter rail fatalities also are reported under transit, as explained above in Cross-Modal comments. U.S. railroad fatality data are based on reports that railroads are required to file for each train accident resulting in property damage in excess of $8,900 (threshold for 2010), each highway-rail accident, and each incident involving the operation of a railroad resulting in a fatality or a reportable injury. These reports cover workers, trespassers and others not on trains in addition to passengers and train crew. For more detail, see the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Railroad Administration, Office of Safety online at which also defines a reportable injury for rail, or refer to the National Transportation Statistics.

The Federal Railroad Administration defines three categories of reportable events:

(1) Train accidents. A safety-related event involving on-track rail equipment (both standing and moving), causing monetary damage to the rail equipment and track above a prescribed amount.

(2) Highway-rail grade crossing incidents. Any impact between a rail and highway user (both motor vehicles and other users of the crossing as a designated crossing site, including walkways, sidewalks, etc., associated with the crossing).

(3) Other incidents. Any death, injury, or occupational illness of a railroad employee that is not the result of a “train accident’ or “highway-rail incident.”

The reporting requirements (established in law) encompass events not strictly related to transportation. For example, if a passenger falls and breaks a leg in the station while going to a train, the injury would be reported and appear in the data as a rail injury.

Transit: In Table 3-1 the transit total includes: transit motor bus; trolley bus; light rail (streetcar-type vehicles); heavy rail (subway); commuter rail; van-pool; demand-response (mainly transportation for the disabled or elderly); and automated guideway (electric railway operated without a vehicle operator or other crew). Figures for transit rail include light rail, heavy rail and commuter rail. Commuter rail also is included in the data for railroad fatalities. The transit total does not include data for several minor submodes, notably cable cars and ferryboats; see the National Transportation Statistics-04 (NTS-04), footnotes to Tables 2-33 and 2-34 for data on these submodes. U.S. transit fatalities are obtained from the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) National Transit Database (NTD) Reporting System. A transit agency is required to file a NTD report at regular intervals if it is a recipient of Urbanized Area Formula Funds. Some 400 transit agencies report, and because some agencies own and operate more than one form of transit, approximately 600 transit services are covered. Such transit operators are responsible for 90 to 95 percent of passenger kilometers traveled on transit. Other transit operators are encouraged to submit NTD forms. The transit operators report on fatalities, injuries, accidents, incidents, and property damage in excess of $1,000. Electronic reporting has recently been implemented for the NTD. A certification from the Chief Executive Officers (CEO) must accompany all NTD reports along with an independent Auditor’s Statement. When an NTD report is received, a validation process is set up that includes a preliminary review of the data for completeness. The report is further reviewed and outstanding items are noted in writing to the agency that submitted the form.

Transit safety data are collected in four major categories: (1) collisions, (2) derailments/buses going off road, (3) personal casualties and (4) fires. The major categories are further broken down into subcategories. Collisions comprise collisions with vehicles, objects and people (except suicides). Of the four major categories, only the first two are included in the definition of accident adopted in the National Transportation Statistics. This definition of accident is relevant to understanding how double counting is removed in the overall total of U.S. transportation fatalities and injuries (see Cross-Modal Comments, above). The transit data presented in Tables 3-1 are for all incidents covering all four of the major categories of events listed above. Thus, for example, fatalities arising from a fall in a transit station or tripping while getting off a bus are counted. For more detail, the reader should consult U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Transit Administration’s Transit Safety and Security Statistics and Analysis Report (formerly SAMIS).

Water transport, total: Water transport fatalities include recreational boating accidents and marine accidents, as well as vessel related accidents.

Water transport, recreational boats: U.S. data for fatalities from recreational boating are based on required reports submitted to the U.S. Coast Guard. Federal regulations (U.S. Code of Federal Regulations 33 (CFR-33,1734)) require the operator of any vessel that is numbered or used for recreational purposes to submit an accident report when, as a result of an occurrence involving the vessel or its equipment: (1) a person dies, (2) a person is injured and requires medical treatment beyond first aid, (3) damage to the vessel and other property totals more than $500 or there is a complete loss of the vessel or (4) a person disappears from the vessel under circumstances that indicate death or injury. Although there is no quantitative estimate of the response rate, there may be considerable underreporting, especially of nonfatal accidents, because of the difficulty of enforcing the requirement and because boat operators may be apathetic to, or may not always be aware of, the law.

Water transport, commercial vessels (passenger and freight): Data in Table 3-1 include: (a) U.S. flag vessels operating anywhere in the world and (b) foreign flag vessels operating within the jurisdiction of the United States (within 12 miles or having an interaction with a U.S. entity, such as a platform within 200 miles or a collision with a U.S. ship.). U.S territories and protectorates are included. All deaths cited result from vessel casualties, such as groundings, collisions, fires or explosions. Fatalities include both people who died and those who were declared missing subsequent to a vessel casualty.

The fatality numbers in Tables 3-1 are taken from marine casualty notifications to the Coast Guard required by the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations (46 CFR 4.05-1) for U.S. flag and foreign vessels, and the subsequent investigation reports. The 1990 data are taken from the casualty maintenance database (CASMAIN) and its personnel casualty table (PCAS). The 1995 and 1996 data are taken from the U.S. Coast Guard Marine Safety Information System (MSIS), and specifically from the Marine Investigations Module. MSIS, which captures marine safety data, is complemented by an analysis database, the Marine Safety Management System (MSMS).

In Table 3-1, the categories Commercial Passenger Vessels and Commercial Freight Vessels correspond to the U.S. Coast Guard’s categories of Passenger Vessels and Cargo Vessels, respectively. The Coast Guard defines passenger vessel as: “a vessel that carries passengers for hire domestically, and more than 12 passengers for hire on an international voyage. This includes uninspected passenger vessels, small passenger vessels, passenger and dinner cruise vessels, and cruise ships.” The Coast Guard defines cargo vessels as: “a vessel that is engaged in commerce by carrying or facilitating the carrying of cargo. This category includes fishing vessels, but does not include mobile offshore drilling units. A cargo vessel on an international voyage may carry cargo and up to 12 passengers for hire.” However, data disaggregated into Passenger Vessels and Cargo Vessels were not readily available for this publication.