In July 2016 — with a very welcome degree of frankness and honesty that I have not seen from other top-level road safety bodies in the USA — the Center for Disease Control [CDC] wrote: “…more than 32,000 people are killed and 2 million are injured each year from motor vehicle crashes. In 2013, the US crash death rate was more than twice the average of other high-income countries… Motor vehicle crash deaths in the US are still too high. There were more than 32,000 crash deaths in the US in 2013…” [Source]
However, since the figure of 32,719 deaths for 2013 became known, the number of road deaths has catapulted upwards and the National Safety Council [NSC] now estimates that 40,200 people were killed on America’s roads in 2016, which will represent a frankly catastrophic, 23 percent increase in just three years.
Despite the CDC’s refreshing frankness, however, there was still one aspect of their associated document which, from any layman reader’s perspective, would appear to significantly play-down the scale of the situation, and this is implied in the graphic shown below.
To be fair, the two other illustrations on the same page did carry explanatory notes regarding the overall numbers of countries to which they referred, which is infinitely preferable. See page 3 of the July 2016 edition of VitalSigns.
It can also be said that while the CDC statement about “the US crash death rate [being] more than twice the average of other high-income countries,” it can be argued that it is even more valid and revealing to state that the USA rate of road deaths is more than four-times worse than the per-capita rates in the leading nations, and three-times worse in the per-vehicles rate, and that if the USA made itself able to match those leading nations, between 20,000 and 25,000 American lives would be saved, each and every year.
The other topic that needs to be mentioned while we are on this subject is that while the USA is justifiably focusing on the biggest known causes of road deaths, it appears to be stunningly intransigent regarding other significant factors. It can be argued that this is logical and that the specific things which cause most deaths — such as excessive speed, drunk driving, and failing to wear seat belts — should be the priority. This may well be true insofar as the priority aspect, but given just how far the USA lags behind so many other countries and the fact that America’s situation is currently worsening dramatically by the year, it must now be time to widen the remit regarding which international best-practices should be emulated, over and above the five biggest killers — a currently rather narrow focus which clearly is not working anywhere near well-enough.