The USA is unique in measuring deaths-by-distance-travelled per 100 million miles, which is referred to as the “Vehicle Miles Traveled” [VMT] rate. The rest of the international community, on the other hand, use one billion vehicle kilometres [“billion VKT”] for the metric, and that is the case in the following list. (View an easy method to convert the US VMT rate to the international figures.)
In monitoring its road safety standards, the USA prefers to use “deaths per 100 million Vehicle Miles Travelled” [VMT] rate, rather than the measure used by every other country, which is the “deaths per billion vehicle kilometres” [billion VKT] rate.
Does this matter? Does it make any difference? The answer is yes, it certainly does, even if only psychologically. For anyone who does not know much about road safety it means that America’s rate cannot readily be compared with the rates in other countries. This is a pity because frankly America’s rate of deaths measured against distance travelled has long been, or at least should have long been, a national embarrassment which the powers-that-be apparently do not want the American people to understand, and the tiny numbers that are used to indicate each year’s VMT rate make it look like there’s no problem at all. But this apparently deliberate keeping people in the dark needs to stop.
So, first of all, let’s get the math out of the way that allows the VMT rate to be converted to the standard, global rate, in order that everyone can understand the situation.
Firstly, one billion kilometres is 621,371,192 miles, so divide that by 100 million and the answer is 6.214, so whenever you see the VMT rate published, you just multiply it by 6.214 and you will have the internationally-recognized billion kilometre [billion VKT] rate. Then, and only then, can you truly compare America’s road safety performance with the other ~29 developed nations of the world that along with the USA are members of the OECD*.
If you now look at Latest Multi-National VMT Road Death Rates – USA Makes Least Progress 1990-2015, you will see that not only does the USA lie in an extremely disappointing 18th place out of the 23 applicable countries for the year 2015 (the current latest figures) and has a billion-VKT death rate that is more than double the rate of the leading nations, but also — when the results are measured from the 25 years from 1990-2015, the USA has made dramatically less progress in cutting deaths than any other applicable country on the list.
From the figures, it can be seen that, if the USA could match the current, top billion-VKT results (i.e. Norway), approximately 22,000 lives would have been saved in road crashes in America in 2015 and even more in 2016 and 2017, because the number of deaths is increasing, year-on-year. [Note: This is a different result to the lives that could be saved if the U.S. were able to match the leading nations’ per capita rates, but given the way that countries’ rates do vary quite widely when using the various different metrics, this situation is not unusual.]
*OECD — Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
Figures released by the USDOT on October 6, 2017, show that 37,461 lives were lost on U.S. roads in 2016, an increase of 5.6 percent from calendar year 2015. This followed an inaccurate estimation earlier this year by the National Safety Council [NSC] that the figure would be approximately 40,200.
In the context of the NSC’s miscalculation, the lower, more recent, and obviously more accurate figure from the USDOT and NHTSA is a relief but the situation is still very bad news. Apart from the 5.6% increase in fatalities from 2015-2016, the fact is that since 2014 the number of deaths on America’s roads and highways has soared swiftly upwards from 32,744 to 37,461, a two-year increase of 14.4 percent, representing almost 5,000 “extra” deaths in 2016 alone.
Rate(a) . Country
- 2.3. . . ..Norway
- 2.7. . . . Sweden
- 2.8 . . . .United Kingdom
- 3.1. . . . .Denmark
- 3.1. . . . .Switzerland
- 3.5. . . . Ireland
- 3.6. . . . Spain
- 3.7. . . . Netherlands
- 3.8. . . . Israel
- 3.8. . . . Japan
- 4.3. . . . Germany
- 4.9. . . . Finland
- 4.9. . . . Iceland (b)
- 5.1. . . . .Australia
- 5.2. . . . Canada
- 5.4. . . . France
- 5.6. . . . Austria
- 5.6. . . . Italy
- 5.7. . . . Portugal
- 5.8. . . . Slovenia
- 6.4. . . . Luxembourg (b)
- 6.5. . . . Belgium
- 6.5. . . . Hungary
- 6.9. . . . New Zealand
- 7.0. . . . Czech Republic
- 7.3. . . . Greece
- 7.7. . . . Poland
- 8.3. . . . Lithuania
- 8.4. . . . Serbia
- 9.1. . . . Korea
- 10.9. . . United States (c)
- 11.1.. . . .Morocco
- 11.9. . . .Chile
- 12.4 . . .Argentina (d)
- 13.3. . . Mexico
- 14.5. . . Cambodia
- 14.6. . . Uruguay
- 21.5. . . Malaysia
- 23.6. . .South Africa
Source: ITF / OECD (colored groupings added by ADoNA)
(a) Rate of road deaths per 100,000 members of the national population
(b) Iceland and Luxembourg experience the most inconsistent annual rates due to their very small population sizes
(c) Statistics published by the USDOT on October 6, 2017, show that during 2016 US road deaths increased by a further 5.6 percent and the per capita rate of deaths rose to 11.59 — See: Over 37,000 People were Killed on America’s Roads and Highways in 2016
(d) 2014 data (OECD)
Numbering in the left-hand column is only for easy reference. Countries with identical rates should not be separated or ranked by this.
Green text: A rate under 3
Orange text: A rate less than double that of the leading country
Purple text: A rate 2-4 times greater than that of the leading country
Red text: A ‘per capita’ rate more than four times higher than that of the leading country
According to Bloomberg News: “Roadway accidents are the leading cause of on-the-job deaths in the USA, but the safety issue remains outside the jurisdiction of the nation’s primary workplace safety agency — the Occupational Safety and Health Administration [OSHA].”
A particularly worrying aspect of this situation is that between 2011-2015 the number of work-related highway deaths in America increased by 15%, which was five times more than the upturn in the overall number of occupational fatalities (3%), according to Bureau of Labor [BLS] statistics.
During 2015 (i.e. the latest available statistics), according to federal figures, 1,264 workers died in highway crashes. That represents 26 percent of the year’s total work-related deaths of 4,836, and it is therefore the most common cause of worker fatalities.
One thing which is not made clear in the official figures is whether they include or exclude highway deaths which occur while the people concerned are actually commuting to or from work, which — although a very secondary concern to the tragic bereavements — still has financially very damaging overtones for the employers concerned. However, judging the above figures against those from other developed nations, it is our opinion at Advanced Drivers of North America [ADoNA] that commuting deaths are definitely not included in the current U.S. data and that in this context the “real” number of deaths is very significantly higher than stated.
In our driver safety training for Fortune 500 client-companies, our training has produced multi-year reductions of 50 percent in fleet crashes and over 80 percent in injuries (based on National Safety Council collision type analysis). If you would like us to work with your team, with the objective of creating very significant collision reductions, please get in touch via our Courses page.
Read: Rise in on-the-Job Motor Vehicle Deaths Spurs Safety Concerns, from Bloomberg News.
How can the American public be expected to know what’s safest for themselves and their children when supposedly trustworthy sources so often publish incorrect and unsafe “advice” about safe driving techniques, or — as in this case — post highly inappropriate photographs or illustrations showing dangerous scenarios as though they are correct and acceptable?
The photograph below first came to our attention when it was posted — outrageously — by no less an organization than the California DMV, so our first questions to them are: Who is responsible for this? Do they know nothing about safe driving and child safety at all?
The dangers shown here are that (a) the girl in the center of the three unavoidably has her seatbelt to high and effectively across her neck. In the event of a collision, this alone could kill her. The girl on the left also has her belt too high but not as badly as the first one. (b) The girl on the right has her belt across her upper arm, below the shoulder (see the Irish Examiner article, linked below, for a better view of this) and there is no way this would restrain her correctly in a collision where, at the very least it might be expected to cause serious arm or shoulder injuries.
The photograph is, however, at least two years old. We now know that a version of it was published by the Irish Examiner (newspaper) on July 04, 2015, in the ironically titled “How to keep kids well when travelling by car,” which was about car sickness but was apparently oblivious to child seatbelt safety
Then, just three days afterwards, yet another version was published by the Gerber Life Insurance Agency, in “Activities to Keep Kids Happily Occupied During Road Travel.” Come on, Gerber. Surely you have someone who should definitely have picked up on this?
The fact that these three sources all used different versions of one image might suggest that they originated from a picture library, in which case we would suggest that while such libraries are in business purely to sell images, they DO have a responsibility not to trade in misleadingly dangerous pictures!
On 4 October, 2017, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration posted a link on Facebook, leading back to a California DMV web page on the subject of supposedly safe steering, which was based on guidelines from NHTSA itself.
Sadly, however, it is fairly clear that America has never had a systemic hierarchy in relation to good, safe driving methodology… something that the nation’s grossly-inadequate and often even inappropriate standard of driving tests illustrates all too well. Even American law enforcement departments — limited almost entirely to private-track “dynamics” driver training — have too few skills and too little knowledge for safe driving when, in fact, they should be setting the highest-possible example for the task.
A lost life — any lost life — is a tragedy, and road accidents* are a massive killer, so my title for this post is by no means meant to be annoying or offensive to anybody.
This topic comes from my former home city of Buffalo, NY, so in more ways than one it is a subject dear to my heart.
The original article is “Groups opposed to traffic safety checkpoints to sue Buffalo police,” from the Buffalo News.
Advanced Drivers of North America [ADoNA] has trained chauffeurs for maximum safety and maximum smoothness in their driving, from Las Vegas to Canada.