America Trails Developed World on Safe Roads - This is Why

America Trails Developed World on Safe Roads - This is Why

America is home to some of the most dangerous roads in the developed world. Over the last twenty years, the rate of traffic fatalities in the US has failed to diminish as it should have. Meanwhile, in countries like Canada and Australia, government-led campaigns have succeeded in making streets safer. 

Although the number of fatalities in road accidents has diminished globally, it has dropped much faster in other industrialized nations than in the US.

In Sweden, there were 12 deaths per billion vehicle miles traveled in 1990. That number was reduced to 3.2 deaths by 2015. In the US, the reduction over the same period has been merely from 12.9 to 7. 

Israel was doing terribly in 1990, at 22.6, but their fatality rate dropped by about 75% over 25 years, and was only 5.9 by 2015. It’s hard to find an industrialized country where this figure has dropped as insignificantly as in the US.

If the US had run prevention campaigns as successfully as Sweden or Israel, hundreds of thousands of American lives might have been spared.

As we prepare for the driverless car revolution, the causes of the majority of crashes are well known.

While other countries have targeted those factors with extensive campaigns and obtained impressive results, the US has not, and the prevalence of speeding on American roads is a prime example. 

According to statistics from the European Transport Research Review, only 22% of cars on the road exceed the posted speed limits in the UK, compared to 74% in the US. 

American drivers do not only speed more often, they also use seatbelts less frequently. Research shows that one in seven US drivers do not use seatbelts. While this does not directly cause accidents, it exacerbates their consequences.

However, it’s not always the drivers who are at fault. Poor city planning and construction site errors are sometimes the cause of automobile accidents. When roads aren’t maintained properly or construction areas aren’t marked, it can confuse drivers and cause dangerous road conditions.

There are also a substantial amount of accidents each year caused by defective vehicle parts.  Brake failure, defective tires, poor steering and suspension, and malfunctioning airbags have contributed to a large number of fatal accidents in the past.

Maybe driverless cars will ultimately make American roads safer, but it is unlikely that the change will be radical while human-driven cars are still on the road, and auto makers are allowed to continue manufacturing defective vehicles. 

Nevertheless, as sensors and crash-avoidance technology become more complex and efficient, there will probably be fewer crashes, especially fatal ones, across the US.

About 30 people die every day in a car accident somewhere in our nation. We could reduce that significantly with more regulation, safer cars, and safer roads.

American drivers do not only speed more often, they also use seatbelts less frequently. Research shows that one in seven US drivers do not use seatbelts. While this does not directly cause accidents, it exacerbates their consequences.

When it comes to alcohol consumption, other countries, for example, Brazil, Uruguay. Hungary, and Czech Republic have a zero tolerance for any level of blood alcohol, while most US states still tolerate minimal amounts.

The fact that driver's licenses can be obtained at a younger age in the US than in most other countries may also play a role.

Maybe driverless cars will ultimately make American roads safer, but it is unlikely that the change will be radical while human-driven cars are still on the road. Nevertheless, as sensors and crash-avoidance technology become more complex and efficient, there will probably be fewer crashes, especially fatal crashes, across the US.

Yet today, about 30 people die every day in a car accident somewhere in our nation, and the authorities could be doing much more to prevent those untimely deaths.



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