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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The Enormous Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is Happening Now in South Dakota

As many as 600,000 bikers are expected for this year’s rally.  Public safety officials are asking everyone to stay alert and reminding other motorists to  wear seat belts.

Photo of a staggered group of motorcyclists.
A small, staggered ‘platoon’ of motorcyclists.   Copyright image.

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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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New York is Top State in USA Enforcement Efforts to Make Highways Safer

NYS DMV Press Release – Monday, July 24, 2017

New York is the top state in the nation in taking steps to reduce injuries and fatalities on its roadways, a recent report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says. No state has taken as many steps to curtail the number of crashes as the Empire State. As a result, New York had one of the lowest rates of traffic fatalities per 100,000 residents in the nation, according to 2013 data cited in the report.

NYS DMV logo

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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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