A Misleading Belief that Illinois is ‘Top State for Road Safety’ from a Report by the NSC

June 30, 2017

The National Safety Council [NSC] does make it clear in the Executive Brief of their recently published ‘State of Safety — a State-by-State Report‘ that what they are doing is examining “where states are, on safety-related actions and policies that can remedy preventable deaths and injuries across our roadways…”

NSC ‘State of Safety’ Map

Sadly, however, the media are already misinterpreting the results and despite the fact that in real world statistical data Illinois is nowhere near being the best-performing state for road safety, the WAND17 television channel, for example, is already proclaiming that “Illinois [is] ranked top state for road safety!”

Other media outlets promoting this seriously inaccurate belief include:

  • RiverBender,
  • Reboot Illinois, which takes the incorrect belief one step further and claims: “Illinois has some of the safest roads in the country. So what’s everyone else doing wrong?”

However, according to ‘Traffic Safety Facts – 2015 State Traffic Data’, published in late June 2017 by NHTSA and the NCSA, Illinois is actually positioned:

  •  9th in the deaths per 100,000 Population [per capita] rate (DC and Massachusetts being 1st & 2nd, respectively)
  • 11th in the deaths per 100,000 Licensed Drivers rate (DC and Rhode Island being 1st & 2nd, respectively)
  • 12th in the deaths per 100,000 Registered Vehicles rate (Rhode Island and Massachusetts being 1st & 2nd, respectively)
  • 15th= in the deaths per 100 million Vehicle Miles Travelled [VMT] rate (Massachusetts and Rhode Island being 1st & 2nd, respectively)

So if one were to use performance in the real life statistics as the criterion — which makes much more sense than who is merely following the most rules — then DC, Massachusetts and Rhode Island are the clear leaders among the American states.

On this basis, it can not be a good thing that the media is telling the people of Illinois and other states that did comparatively well in the NSC study, that they live in one of the best states in terms of road safety.  Such misleadingly inaccurate information can only serve to breed complacency among the people of the states in question — something that can ill be afforded.

Those better-performing (i.e. ‘Group B’) states in the NSC report are:  California, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Oregon, and Washington.  It is noticeable that two of the three true leaders — Rhode Island and Massachusetts — didn’t even make it into this group!

The fact is that Illinois — the state most compliant with the recommended policies — is not actually the safest state when measured against the four recognized statistical parameters and this certainly should not be ignored. Does this mean that the USA needs to do much more than promote just those criteria named in the NSC report?  Even though the guidelines in question are undoubtedly good, the answer is still definitely ‘yes!’

Policies that Should be in America’s Planned Progress but are Not

This list is by no means complete.  Only a few concerns are shown here as examples but plenty more exist.  These include:

  • The use of high-quality thermo-plastic or equivalent, with a high glass-bead content, for creating much improved road/pavement center-line, lane line, stop line and edge markings, instead of cheaper alternatives that are difficult or impossible for drivers to see in bad weather;
  • Banning any parking within specific distances of crosswalks (the distances being determined relative to the applicable speed limit) so that pedestrians have an unobstructed view of approaching vehicles and likewise drivers have an unobstructed view of pedestrians;
  • Ending the attitude that drivers’ convenience — as in lack of delays — is more important than the safety of Vulnerable Road Users [VRUs];
  • Far more mid-block crosswalks, with protective, central islands where pedestrians may safely wait;
  • Vastly-improved state drivers manuals, telling new drivers adequate and accurate information, in line with global best practices, to replace the archaic, inadequate and often even dangerous ‘information’ that is currently in most such manuals;
  • Getting rid of ‘secondary laws’ (which prevent law enforcement officers doing their life-saving work);
  • Telling the public the accurate truth, rather than understatements and propaganda, so that they become aware that the USA performs very poorly indeed in road safety, when compared to other developed countriesThe American people deserve to know the truth that if America were to match the much lower road-death rates of the leading significant nationscurrently the two long-term leaders of Sweden and Britain, together now with Norway and Switzerland — then 20,000 to 25,000 American lives would be saved each and every year, and a vastly higher number than this would either suffer less-serious injuries or escape injury altogether.

There should be no reason why this great nation could not do dramatically better in road safety, but that will only be achieved by putting lives ahead of political gamesmanship, by dropping the pretense that the U.S. is doing well, and by looking outwards to global best-practices rather than inward in the continuing vain hope of improving an approach that clearly does not work well enough.

Finally, for anyone who misinterpreted what the NSC was seeking to do with this report, see: USA: Highway Fatalities by State, and by Percentage Change Since 1975

Eddie Wren, CEO & Chief InstructorAdvanced Drivers of North America