A total of 625 patients who sustained acute cervical spine fractures were evaluated by the Spinal Cord Injury Service at Barrow Neurological Institute, Phoenix, Arizona, between January 1976 and January 1984. Of them, 107 had fractures of the second cervical vertebra. In a retrospective review, motor vehicle accidents were found to be the most common mechanism of injury, resulting in 73 (68%) of the 107 axis fractures. All axis fracture types were encountered in this subgroup: hangman’s (27%), Odontoid Type II (39%), Odontoid Type III (15%), and miscellaneous fractures (19%). Only one of the 30 patients with complete medical records and detailed information about the accident was wearing a seat belt. Equally remarkable is that 15 of the 30 accidents were single car mishaps, where occupant restraints might theoretically provide the most protection. Sixteen of the 30 patients were thrown from their vehicles, another five were found in the backseat, which leads to the conclusion that a significant portion of the driving population does not wear seat belts or shoulder restraints. Patients with axis fractures from an automobile accident had a high rate of associated severe head injuries or other cervical spine fractures, three times that of patients with C-2 fractures from other causes. Motorists who are thrown from their vehicles suffer the most severe trauma and have the highest rates of morbidity and mortality. As many as 25% to 40% of individuals who sustain high cervical fractures in motor vehicle accidents die as a result of their injuries. © Lippincott-Raven Publishers.