Astonishingly, the USA Does Not Meet the Basic Road Safety Standards of the W.H.O.

While it is something one might reasonably expect only in relation to poorer, “third-world” countries, the United States of America fails to do well in any of the legislative requirements to achieve basic standards of road safety, as outlined in the most-recent edition of the Global Status Report on Road Safety, by the World Health Organisation [WHO].

W.H.O. Global Status Report on Road Safety 2015 - Front Cover
W.H.O. Global Status Report on Road Safety 2015 – Front Cover

Introductory Excerpts

The most positive changes to road user behaviour occur when road safety legislation is supported by strong and sustained enforcement, and public awareness.

Road safety laws improve road user behaviour and reduce road traffic crashes, injuries and deaths – especially laws relating to the five key risk factors for road safety:

  1. speed
  2. drink–driving
  3. the use of motorcycle helmets
  4. seat-belts
  5. child restraints

In the more detailed categories, below, there are three grades which can perhaps be thought of as “good,” “fair,” and “poor” — indicated on the referenced maps in green, yellow and orange, respectively.


The map on page 6 of the linked W.H.O. document shows America’s non-compliant, “Poor” status for this aspect of safety.

ADoNA Comment:  While not in any way referring to the WHO recommendations, the most recent summary of the situation concerning speeding in the USA has just been published by the NTSB.


Excerpt:  Drink–driving increases the likelihood of a road traffic crash and that death or serious injury will result, so setting and enforcing legislation on blood alcohol concentration limits of 0.05 g/dl [0.05% BAC] can significantly reduce alcohol-related crashes.

The map on page 7 of the linked W.H.O. document shows America’s non-compliant, “Fair” status for this aspect of safety.

ADoNA CommentUtah is one of a tiny handful of states that are moving in the right direction on this crucial safety factor.

The Use of Motorcycle Helmets

ExcerptHelmet laws should apply to all riders (including children) and specify a helmet-quality standard, but only 44 countries (representing 1.2 billion people) have laws that: apply to all drivers, passengers, roads and engine types; require the helmet to be fastened; refer to a particular helmet standard. Those with laws incorporating these characteristics are disproportionately high-income countries in the European Region (see Figure 10). This is particularly worrying as the South-East Asia Region and the Western Pacific Region are known to have a high proportion of motorcycle deaths, while in the Region of the Americas the proportion of road traffic deaths among motorcyclists is on the rise – increasing from 15% to 20% between 2010 and 2013.

ADoNA Comment:  The map on page 8 of the linked W.H.O. document shows the USA’s non-compliant, “Poor” status for this aspect of safety.

Seat Belts

Excerpt:  Wearing a seat-belt reduces the risk of fatality among drivers and front-seat passengers by 45–50%, and the risk of minor and serious injuries by 20–45% respectively. Among rear-seat passengers, seat-belts reduce fatal and serious injuries by 25% and minor injuries by up to 75%.

ADoNA Comment:  In most American states, seat belt laws apply only to front-seat occupants, not to those in the rear seats, but this is a dreadful failing as not only are back-seat passengers inadequately protected but when thrown around — quite literally like cannonballs — in the event of a collision, they can also kill or severely injure people who are properly restrained in the front seats.  See Figure 11 on page 9 of the linked W.H.O. document, which relates to the USA’s “Fair” status (in some states) for this aspect of safety.

Child Restraints

ADoNA Comment:  Perhaps this is the most surprising — an area where we would have expected America to get a “Good” rating, but for whatever technical reason, it doesn’t.  See Figure 12 on page 9 of the linked W.H.O. document.


The overall outcome for the USA is shockingly mediocre, with three “Fair” results and two “Poor.”  Not a single “Good” in the whole review!  And it has to be remembered that  this relates to the five most basic and vital areas of road safety, not the many other factors that contribute to crashes and deaths.



Global Status Report on Road Safety 2015, World Health Organisation


Author: EddieWren

Eddie Wren is the CEO and Chief Instructor at Advanced Drivers of North America. His driver safety background is given at:

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