International Road Safety Annual Report 2018 – The USA Does Very Badly Again

In the latest edition of what is undoubtedly the most comprehensive international summary of global road safety each year, the mission statement for the USA is:  ‘Dedicated to achieving the highest standards of excellence in motor vehicle safety and reducing deaths, injuries and economic losses resulting from motor vehicle crashes.’  However, as the following figures and references will show, this stated goal may be true regarding the intent but actual U.S. outcomes over recent decades have been a very long way indeed from any “highest standards of excellence.”

Photograph of the scene of a fatal road crash in the USA.
A fatal road traffic crash (not “accident”) which I encountered by chance during my frequent travel to conduct safe / defensive / advanced driving courses throughout the USA. (Copyright image, 2012.)

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Around 3,000 Americans are Killed by Vehicles Each Year just on Parking Lots, Driveways and Private Roads

According to the National Safety Council [NSC], the number of people killed in the USA during 2017 in road accidents once again exceeded 40,000, following major increases in such deaths during the years since the end of the financial recession.

Aerial view of cars and pedestrians in a parking lot.
People innocently walking across a parking lot, oblivious to risk, yet several vehicles are unsafely parked — nose inwards, rather than backing into the slot and parking nose-outwards — just one thing that increases the risk, especially when children are around. (Copyright image.)

A year ago, the NSC estimated that the 2016 death toll was about 3,000 fatalities more than the eventual official figure of 37,461 which was subsequently issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration [NHTSA], however the NSC explain this apparent discrepancy with the fact that ‘the government counts only deaths on public roads, while the council includes parking lots, driveways and private roads.’

In other words, about 3,000 “additional” people — an average of eight per day — are killed each year in vehicular crashes but do not qualify for inclusion in the official statistics, yet this is an additional eight percent and a lot of those killed in such circumstances are children.  The fact that these incidents involve deaths on parking lots and private driveways serves to illustrate the true level of dangers in places than many people unthinkingly tend to dismiss as being low-risk locations, but that is clearly not the case.

As always, our ADoNA defensive and advanced safe driving courses include research-based, best-practise methods to help your corporate drivers or chauffeurs stay safe and protect other people in relevant locations.

You can read the full article, from USA Today, regarding the NSC estimate for 2017 road deaths.

Latest Multi-National VMT Road Death Rates – USA Makes Least Progress 1990-2015

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.)

Photograph of rush-hour highway traffic, Washington D.C.
Rush-hour traffic, Washington D.C. (Copyright image.)

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Converting the USA’s preferred ‘VMT’ rate of road deaths to the ‘Billion VKT’ rate used by the rest of the world shows a shockingly poor result for America

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.

Photograph of distracted rider and pedestrain, plus none-use of a crash helmet..
Some dangerous problems are found in many countries: distracted drivers, riders and pedestrians, none-use of seatbelts or crash helmets, etc. (Copyright image.)

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.]

 

Footnote

*OECD — Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development

 

Over 37,000 People were Killed on America’s Roads and Highways in 2016

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.

Photograph of two roadside memorials, on opposite sides of a rural road, and from two separate crashes.
Not one but two memorials, for two separate crashes on either side of this road at this one location in Illinois. Photo: Copyright 2012.

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Multi-National ‘Per Capita’ Road Death Rates for 2015 (as published in Oct. 2017)

Rate(a) . Country

  1. 2.3. . . ..Norway
  2. 2.7. . . . Sweden
  3. 2.8 . . . .United Kingdom
  4. 3.1. . . . .Denmark
  5. 3.1. . . . .Switzerland
  6. 3.5. . . . Ireland
  7. 3.6. . . . Spain
  8. 3.7. . . . Netherlands
  9. 3.8. . . . Israel
  10. 3.8. . . . Japan
  11. 4.3. . . . Germany
  12. 4.9. . . . Finland
  13. 4.9. . . . Iceland (b)
  14. 5.1. . . . .Australia
  15. 5.2. . . . Canada
  16. 5.4. . . . France
  17. 5.6. . . . Austria
  18. 5.6. . . . Italy
  19. 5.7. . . . Portugal
  20. 5.8. . . . Slovenia
  21. 6.4. . . . Luxembourg (b)
  22. 6.5. . . . Belgium
  23. 6.5. . . . Hungary
  24. 6.9. . . . New Zealand
  25. 7.0. . . . Czech Republic
  26. 7.3. . . . Greece
  27. 7.7. . . . Poland
  28. 8.3. . . . Lithuania
  29. 8.4. . . . Serbia
  30. 9.1. . . . Korea
  31. 10.9. . . United States (c)
  32. 11.1.. . . .Morocco
  33. 11.9. . . .Chile
  34. 12.4 . . .Argentina (d)
  35. 13.3. . . Mexico
  36. 14.5. . . Cambodia
  37. 14.6. . . Uruguay
  38. 21.5. . . Malaysia
  39. 23.6. . .South Africa

Source: ITF / OECD  (colored groupings added by ADoNA)

Footnotes:

(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)

Also see: Latest Multi-National VMT Road Death Rates – USA Makes Least Progress 1990-2015

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

 

Two Critical USDOT / NHTSA Statistics Identify a Very Bad Situation in American Highway Safety

Perhaps 6-8 years ago, the US DOT and NHTSA published a statistic online that identified a thoroughly horrifying situation.  Put simply, it said that the chances for every young person in the USA being involved in a serious-injury or fatal road crash at some point in their life is an astonishingly-high “fifty-fifty.”  At that time, I looked at my four American step-daughters and wondered which two — statistically speaking — it might be.  That statistic, however, very swiftly disappeared off the Internet.

Now, however, I also have six American grandchildren, and just today — August 11, 2017 — another statistic has been published on Facebook by NHTSA which very effectively renews my concerns.  It said exactly this:

NHTSA 1 hrThe chance of being in an alcohol-impaired crash is one in three over the course of a lifetime. #BuzzedDriving 
 .
Photograph of the scene of a fatal road crash in the USA.
A fatal road traffic crash (not “accident”) which I came across by chance on my travels in the USA. Copyright image.

Around 4,000 New Yorkers are seriously injured and >250 are killed each year in traffic crashes

Lawmakers Decry Two Hit-And-Run Road Deaths in Brooklyn

…Police say that at 12:28 a.m, Saturday, Neftaly Ramirez, 27, was biking along Franklin Street in Greenpoint when he was struck by a white and green garbage truck traveling southbound on Franklin at the intersection of Noble Street. The driver, who police say worked for a private sanitation company, did not stop, and by the time police and EMS workers arrived, Ramirez was dead. The driver has not been found and the case remains under investigation.
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What the U.S. CDC Says about Road and Highway Crash Deaths in America

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.

It is misleading that this graphic shows the ‘per capita’ road death rates for just ten ‘high-income’ countries when in fact in 2013 the USA was in 30th position out of the 32 OECD nations that were listed in that year’s data in the 2015 IRTAD report.

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NTSB Safety Compass has not Published my Reply to their “Best Days of Their Lives” Blog, but it’s Important

One week ago, on July 10, 2017, the National Transportation Safety Board [NTSB] published their periodic “Safety Compass” blog.  The post in question was called “Best Days of Their Lives” and is very good, in relation to the safety of young drivers.

Photograph of two roadside memorials, on opposite sides of a rural road, and from two separate crashes.
Not one but two memorials for young people, from two separate crashes on either side of the road at this location in Illinois. Photo: Copyright 2012.

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