Sadly, it is very common here in the N.E. USA, to see selfish drivers deliberately stay out in the middle- or left-lanes of a highway until they are alongside the exit they require then veer or even swerve sharply across the right-hand lane(s) to exit, right across the front of vehicles being driven correctly and safely.
May 31, 2017
“…Road rage causes a relatively small, but increasing percentage of fatalities on U.S. roadways, linked to 467 fatal crashes in 2015 or 1.3 percent, up from 80 or 0.2 percent in 2006, an increase of almost 500 percent in 10 years, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
“The number of road rage incidents that involve firearms also appears to be rising. Last month, The Trace, a nonprofit news organization focused on gun violence, found that cases of road rage involving a firearm more than doubled to 620 in 2016 from 247 in 2014, with 136 people killed in those three years. The count included cases of motorists brandishing or firing a weapon at another driver or passenger…” [End]
Source: Chicago Tribune
Across the USA, traffic deaths went up by a hugely unacceptable 15 percent in the two years from 2013 through 2015. The national figures for 2016 are not yet available, but is this horrendous situation in Arizona an indicator of where the national figures are heading next?
An article from the North Phoenix News on May 29, 2017, is the source for the above figures, and it also makes some very saddening claims for the main causative factors in 2016’s 950 road deaths in the state (up from 768 in 2014).
The major, cited factors are:
- Speeding (involved in – quote – “most collisions in Arizona”)
- Alcohol (involved in ~33% of deaths)
- Failure to wear a seatbelt, child safety device or crash helmet (involved in 35% of deaths)
The Scottish Government and Road Safety Scotland tend to run 2-3 media campaigns per year, supported by other activity on a more localised level, as part of a wider strategy to reduce road casualties.
These campaigns are generally evaluated on an ad hoc basis among their specific target audiences at the point in time when they are running.
However, it was recognised that there was no on-going tracking to assess the longer term effect of campaigns or local activity on driver behaviours and attitudes more generally – are there any changes occurring in these over time and are these for the better?
Against this background, a survey mechanism was set up in September 2010 to monitor driver behaviour and attitudes in Scotland in relation to some key issues of road safety on a continuous basis.
Continued from: Misleading Highway Safety Info’ from the NTSB – Part 1
In a post on April 25, 2016, titled “Your Car is a Public Health Tool” on the NTSB Safety Compass blog, NTSB Vice Chairman Dr. T. Bella Dinh-Zarr wrote about the number of road deaths suffered by the USA.
Excerpts (in their original sequence)
- “…[The] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S.’s public health agency, declared Motor Vehicle Safety one of the top ten public health achievements of the 20th Century…”
- “In the last few decades of the 20th Century, motor vehicle deaths decreased from 50,000 per year to 30,000 deaths per year.”
- “With the vision of a future with no motor vehicle crashes, deaths and injuries, it’s important that we continue to improve crash prevention technologies, while also striving for advances in technologies to improve vehicle crashworthiness, especially as it relates to occupant protection.”
I must address point #2 first because frankly it makes a mockery of point #1, quote: “In the last few decades of the 20th Century, motor vehicle deaths decreased from 50,000 per year to 30,000 deaths per year.” But no they didn’t — not even remotely!
U.S. road deaths were still at 41,945 in the year 2000 and remained above 40,000 per year until 2008 (n=37,261, which equates to a staggering, 40 percent error). That is by no means a part of the “last few decades of the 20th Century!” Then, inline with the recession, the number of deaths per year did start to fall dramatically, as road travel also fell due to the financial situation. Interestingly, many official bodies in the US road safety arena at this point started claiming that their respective programs had been tremendously successful and were indubitably responsible for the significantly reduced numbers of deaths. Perhaps nobody had taught these people that recessions cause such reductions in deaths and that when the recession ended the number of deaths could be expected to rise again. And boy, has it ever!
But there is one other point to be made: At no point in this period did the annual road deaths fall as low as the “30,000” claimed in point #2, above. According to ITS/IRTAD, the lowest figure was 32,479 (2011), so this in turn represents an eight percent error. This may seem insignificant but it was a very undesirable exaggeration, it never materialized, and was certainly unscientific!
So now lets go back to the first point above, the CDC claim that “Motor-Vehicle Safety [was] A 20th Century Public Health Achievement,” and the fact that the NTSB has seen fit to promote this claim on its blog. Really, NTSB (and CDC, too)? Both of your organizations must surely be aware that since at least the 1970s the USA has fallen further and further back, behind the much greater road safety improvements made by virtually every other developed nation in the world — greater rates of improvement and in some cases death rates that are now less than one-quarter of the rate in the USA.
To illustrate America’s poor rate of progress, one can turn to the ITS/OECD/IRTAD database 2009 — Long-term Trends, “Road User fatalities” for 1980, 1990, 2000… and .” This shows that in 1980, the USA suffered 51,091 road deaths and in 2007 the number was down to 41,059 a reduction of 19.6 percent. This sounds quite good until one looks at the percentage reductions for the following countries over the same period:
- Switzerland . . . . . . . . -68.2%
- Germany . . . . . . . . . .. -67.1%
- France . . . . . . . . . . . .. -65.8%
- Austria . . . . . . . . . . . . -65.5%
- Netherlands . . . . . . .. -64.5%
- Portugal . . . . . . . . . .. -62.2%
- Luxembourg . . . . . . .. -56.1%
- Belgium . . . . . . . . . . . -55.5%
- Australia . . . . . . . . . .. -50.6%
- Great Britain . . . . . . . -50.5%
- Slovenia . . . . . . . . . . . -47.5%
- Canada . . . . . . . . . . . . -47.0%
- Sweden . . . . . . . . . . .. -44.5%
- Italy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . -44.3%
- Japan . . . . . . . . . . . . . -41.7%
- Spain . . . . . . . . . . . . . -41.4%
- Denmark . . . . . . . . . . -41.2%
- Ireland . . . . . . . . . . . . -41.1%
- Iceland . . . . . . . . . . .. -40.0%
- Norway . . . . . . . . . . . -35.6%
- Finland . . . . . . . . . . . -31.0%
- New Zealand . . . . . .. -29.3%
- Hungary . . . . . . . . . . -24.4%
- United States . . . . . . -19.6%
- Poland . . . . . . . . . . . . – 7.0%
- Korea . . . . . . . . . . . . . – 4.4%
- Czech Republic . . . . . – 3.1%
- Greece . . . . . . . . . . . . +14.6%
The countries finishing from 1st to 6th achieved more than three-times the improvement than did the USA, those from 7th to 10th more than 2.5-times more, and those from 11th to 19th did at least twice as well. Does anybody want to elaborate now about how on earth the comparatively poor performance by the USA is in any way the stated “20th Century public health achievement?” Such a claim, for such comparatively poor success, could easily be dismissed as mere propaganda.
Finally, there is no fault with the point #3, above, but it is effectively indisputable that the USA has fallen so far behind the rest of the developed world in this crucial field of road safety because the country has been far, far too introspective and has ignored all of the advances made elsewhere and how they have been achieved. Relying solely on technological advances that may still be a long way off in coming to full fruition is a weak-kneed approach. Many American lives undoubtedly can be saved by the USA immediately opening its eyes to other countries’ far greater success and emulating the methods used, without trying to re-invent the wheel and making a mess of it, as it has done — for example — in relation to America’s recent adoption and best-practice use of modern roundabouts (a failing of the FHWA)!
Inaccurate information on highway safety is a regrettably common from not only state governments but also Federal Government departments in the USA and this undoubtedly misleads the American people badly. In this article, I will discuss the National Transportation Safety Board [NTSB].
In October 2003, the NTSB hosted the Public Forum on Driver Education and Training at their Washington DC facility, which I attended on behalf of the not-for-profit organization Drive & Stay Alive.
One of the speakers was Dr. Allen Robinson, the director of and professor in the Highway Safety Center at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and also the chief executive officer of the American Driver and Traffic Safety Education Association [ADTSEA].
Astonishingly, Dr. Robinson made the following, extraordinary claim during his presentation: “The fatality rate of drivers in the United States is far better than any other country. You know, sometimes we don’t step back and look at our successes. Even though our fatality rate is much better than any other country, it’s not satisfactory to us.”
To simply say that this claim was inaccurate would in itself be wildly short of the mark. At that point in time, the USA was in dreadful 29th position out of the 30 member-nations of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development [OECD] with a per capita road death rate over four-times higher/worse then the leading nations. It was also second-last in the deaths-by-distance-travelled rate (which America refers to as “VMT”) and not at all good in the rate of deaths relative to the number of registered motor vehicles in this country. Those are the three regular measures for road death rates.
It is hard to see how Dr. Robinson’s claim could be any further from being accurate.
Questions for speakers at this event could only be submitted in writing, on filing cards supplied by the NTSB, so I submitted a deliberately very polite question asking what metric Dr. Robinson was using for his claim about the USA rate being better than any other countries when, in fact, it was the opposite. I then watched as the cards were gathered together on a desk at the front of the auditorium and as the man sat at the desk flicked through them, one card got his attention and he summoned a colleague to see it. That card was then removed from the stack and set aside. My question was subsequently not asked. **That,** dear NTSB, is called censorship and was all the worse because my question was entirely accurate, unlike Dr. Robinson’s claim.
My next bout of astonishment occurred when the NTSB subsequently published their report of the proceedings, viz:
National Transportation Safety Board Public Forum on Driver Education and Training, October 28-29, 2003. Report of Proceedings. NTSB/RP-05/01. PB2005-917003. Notation 633A.
…and there, in the second paragraph on page 34, was Dr. Robinson’s entirely erroneous claim. I contacted the NTSB and after challenges getting past gatekeepers to speak to someone nearer the top, I asked why such an inaccurate claim had been allowed to remain in the proceedings when it was clearly so very misleading and capable of making people think that there wasn’t a problem with America’s road death rates — let alone a very serious problem — and that therefore nothing needed to be done about it. I was given the answer that the document was merely a verbatim record of proceedings and that it wasn’t the NTSB’s task to edit it.
Really? Not edited? Perhaps that would be why, at the foot of the first page of the Executive Summary, the report states: “Some of the speakers’ remarks in these proceedings have been edited.”
An online search for the above “Proceedings” document rather expectably now shows it to have been circulated and cited around the world. Ironically, one of the websites that has it on display is (was?) Dr. Robinson’s organization, ADTSEA.
As stated above, I complained about this unprofessional situation back in 2003-04 and I wouldn’t have come back to the topic now, except for the fact that recently there has been more very misleading information coming from the NTSB on exactly the same subject of road death rates.
Because so many people in America carry guns, legally or otherwise, police officers undoubtedly and understandably find it stressful to stop vehicles in order to speak to the driver. And in turn, after news of previous bad incidents in which vehicle occupants have been shot by police officers, drivers find it very stressful to be stopped by the police.
The State of Illinois has now mandated that future student drivers must be taught what to do if stopped by the police, and this is it:
- Stay in your car unless you are told to get out.
- Have your license and registration ready.
- Roll down your windows so officers can see inside.
- Have your hands visible, and make all passengers do the same.
- Be polite and obey the officer’s commands.
- If asked to step out be sure your hands are empty.
This undoubtedly is good advice for being stopped by the police anywhere in the USA.
All sorts of ‘rules’ or ‘guidelines’ are important in safe driving but, a few years ago, a panel of British Police Advanced Driving Instructors was asked to decide on which one was the most crucial.
To put things in perspective, British police advanced drivers and advanced motorcyclists are by far the most highly-trained individuals in the world relative to safe driving/riding on public roads, with just one exception — the instructors who train them! Qualifying at the advanced level in both disciplines of driving and motorcycle riding takes a minimum of ten weeks (400 hours) of behind-the-wheel training, at very high speeds among regular traffic on public roads, not a private circuit. And this is done in unmarked vehicles without any flashing lights or sirens. That duration of training is far more than it takes to obtain a private pilot’s license. Qualifying as an advanced police instructor then takes several more full weeks of training and many more weeks as a continuously supervised instructor, to ensure the task is being done with absolute accuracy.
So what is this ‘Golden Rule’?
Interestingly, the panel of advanced instructors said that this concept of a golden rule had to have an explanatory introduction and that was that the most fundamental thing is to stay on the correct side of the road — for example, on the left in Britain or Australia, and on the right in the USA or France. It sounds obvious, doesn’t it? And of course it is, but in many countries that people visit on vacation or on business, there are road deaths every year because a visitor made a mistake and drove on the wrong side. Once this was made clear, the panel was able to focus on a key rule that would apply to and be helpful to all drivers, anywhere in the world, and it is this:
“Never drive so fast that you cannot stop:
on your own side of the road,
within the distance you can see to be clear.”™
(Copyright, 2006, in North America; Advanced Drivers of [North] America)
There is much more to this powerful safety advice than meets the eye. For example, “the distance you can see to be clear” emphatically does not mean “the distance you can clearly see!” Similarly, the “safely” aspect is inextricably linked to a full and correct understanding of safe following distances.
Naturally, this is one of the many topics explained in great detail on all Advanced Drivers of North America, Inc., training courses.
When American automakers say they are dedicated to the safety of their customers, you might like to ask why the vehicles they make for the European market are commonly safer than their versions made for the U.S. market or have more safety features available, even though those same enhancements are not even available on their American vehicles!
If pressed on the subject, hey will tell you that it is only to comply with tougher legislation in Europe, and that is partially true, but they are being “economical with the truth” to quote a famous expression I once heard from a mealy-mouthed politician, many years ago.
Fact 1: Over many years, the standards of the ‘European New Car Assessment Programme’ [Euro-NCAP] have often been more demanding than the American ‘New Car Assessment Program’ [NCAP] because, frankly, Europeans have been given more safety advice over the decades and so not only the public but also the politicians tend to be more knowledgeable and more demanding, and thus the standards are higher.
Fact 2: Following on from this, European people would appear to be a bit more likely to spend extra money on optional safety enhancements. I’m not pretending this is vast; Europeans still typically spend more on ‘infotainment’ systems than on additional safety but the automakers still follow the extra profits that are available and so at least the options are open.
But this still doesn’t answer why Americans who value safety can’t always get the same enhancements to help keep their families as safe as can European families. Do you think that’s fair?
Clearly, it makes no sense to compare the actual number of people killed in road crashes in a large, heavily-populated nation to the equivalent number for a small, lightly-populated country. Instead, such deaths must be measured against valid benchmarks:
- Deaths per 100,000 members of the population – the per capita rate.
- Deaths per one billion vehicle kilometres (the per distance travelled rate)
- Deaths per 10,000 registered motor vehicles in the country
In general, it only makes sense to compare nations that have significant factors in common, and one such group is the wealthier, developed countries that are member-nations of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
Figures for each country’s road casualty statistics take 2-3 years to be finalized, so the latest available figures at any point in time are inevitably from 2-3 years previously.
The most recent figures relative to the USA, as at May 2017, are listed on page 24 of the OECD/ITF Road Safety Annual Report, 2016 (2017 not yet published) and are summarized as follows:
Road deaths per 100,000 inhabitants
- Countries providing data: 32
- America’s ranking in list: 30th
- Best rates: 1.2 (Iceland)* — 2.8 Sweden — 2.9 UK & Norway
- USA rate: 10.2
- Worst rates: 10.2 (USA) — 11.9 (Chile) — 12.4 (Argentina)
- NOTE: Iceland, with its rate of just 1.2, has such a small population that its rate can vary by up to 300% in a one year period.
Road deaths per billion vehicle-kilometres (USA uses 100 million miles)
- Countries providing data: 21
- America’s ranking in list: 18th
- Best rates: 3.4 (Sweden & Norway) — 3.6 (UK & Denmark)
- USA Rate: 6.7
- Worst rates: 7.1 (Belgium & New Zealand) — 15.5 (Korea)
Road deaths per 10,000 registered vehicles
- Countries providing data: 32
- America’s ranking in list: 27th
- Best Rates: 0.4 (several) — 0.5 (several)
- USA Rate: 1.2
- Worst rates: 1.8 (Lithuania) — 2.2 (Argentina) — 4.7 (Chile)
The worst of this bad situation for America is that, over the years, many high-ranking officials in relevant government departments such as NHTSA and the NTSB have implied or even blatantly stated that the country is doing well in highway safety and getting better!
Doing well? No!!! By comparison with virtually all other developed nations it is immensely regrettable that the USA is doing very badly.
As for “getting better,” this is only by comparison with America’s own past performance, and even then the death rates are rocketing back up again, after the recession that brought them down so dramatically. If it weren’t so tragic, it would be funny how many officials claimed credit for the falling rates after the recession started but nobody is claiming or accepting any responsibility now that the situation has so tragically reversed! Figures show that virtually all other countries have made much greater progress over the past two decades than the USA, compared to their own past performances.
The logical conclusion can only be that all of the positive publicity has been a deliberate attempt to keep the American people in the dark or — worse — completely mislead them into thinking that everything is good and acceptable. But it is not.
- Misleading Highway Safety Info from the NTSB – Part 1 (May 2017)
- Misleading Highway Safety Info’ from the NTSB – Part 2 (May 2017)