Automobile pollution kills more people than automobile collisions do. A recent study on the subject done by researchers at MIT says that the 34,080 American lives that were ended in 2012 by automobile collisions are completely eclipsed by the number of people who died as a result of the pollution from those same automobiles — 58,050. Authored by five researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the study found an estimated 200,400 premature deaths attributable to combustion emissions in the US last year. Of those, a bare majority were due to either road transportation or electric power generation.
The study primarily focused on fine particulate matter, or particles with a diameter of 2.5 micrometers or less. These minuscule particles are most likely to cause illnesses like lung cancer and premature deaths more generally.
The researchers found 52,800 yearly premature deaths attributable to emissions related to road transportation, with a similar number — 52,200 — due to electric power generation. They also looked at ozone exposure, but found much lower numbers: 5,250 due to motor vehicles, and another 1,700 caused by electricity production. These represented just more than half of all premature deaths caused by fine particulate matter, with other large contributors being industry (40,800 deaths in 2005) and commercial and residential buildings (41,800 deaths).
The new research was just published in the journal Atmospheric Environment. You can find the abstract here.