The incidents which generations of people have grown up calling “road accidents” or “highway accidents” are wrongly named — they need to be referred to as crashes or collisions — but if this sounds like nothing more than silly word-play and semantics to you, read on, because there is a very important reason behind it.
Clearly, it makes no sense to compare the actual number of people killed in road crashes in a large, heavily-populated nation to the equivalent number for a small, lightly-populated country. Instead, such deaths must be measured against valid benchmarks:
- Deaths per 100,000 members of the population – the per capita rate.
- Deaths per one billion vehicle kilometres (the per distance travelled rate)
- Deaths per 10,000 registered motor vehicles in the country
In general, it only makes sense to compare nations that have significant factors in common, and one such group is the wealthier, developed countries that are member-nations of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
Figures for each country’s road casualty statistics take 2-3 years to be finalized, so the latest available figures at any point in time are inevitably from 2-3 years previously.
The most recent figures relative to the USA, as at May 2017, are listed on page 24 of the OECD/ITF Road Safety Annual Report, 2016 (2017 not yet published) and are summarized as follows:
Road deaths per 100,000 inhabitants
- Countries providing data: 32
- America’s ranking in list: 30th
- Best rates: 1.2 (Iceland)* — 2.8 Sweden — 2.9 UK & Norway
- USA rate: 10.2
- Worst rates: 10.2 (USA) — 11.9 (Chile) — 12.4 (Argentina)
- NOTE: Iceland, with its rate of just 1.2, has such a small population that its rate can vary by up to 300% in a one year period.
Road deaths per billion vehicle-kilometres (USA uses 100 million miles)
- Countries providing data: 21
- America’s ranking in list: 18th
- Best rates: 3.4 (Sweden & Norway) — 3.6 (UK & Denmark)
- USA Rate: 6.7
- Worst rates: 7.1 (Belgium & New Zealand) — 15.5 (Korea)
Road deaths per 10,000 registered vehicles
- Countries providing data: 32
- America’s ranking in list: 27th
- Best Rates: 0.4 (several) — 0.5 (several)
- USA Rate: 1.2
- Worst rates: 1.8 (Lithuania) — 2.2 (Argentina) — 4.7 (Chile)
The worst of this bad situation for America is that, over the years, many high-ranking officials in relevant government departments such as NHTSA and the NTSB have implied or even blatantly stated that the country is doing well in highway safety and getting better!
Doing well? No!!! By comparison with virtually all other developed nations it is immensely regrettable that the USA is doing very badly.
As for “getting better,” this is only by comparison with America’s own past performance, and even then the death rates are rocketing back up again, after the recession that brought them down so dramatically. If it weren’t so tragic, it would be funny how many officials claimed credit for the falling rates after the recession started but nobody is claiming or accepting any responsibility now that the situation has so tragically reversed! Figures show that virtually all other countries have made much greater progress over the past two decades than the USA, compared to their own past performances.
The logical conclusion can only be that all of the positive publicity has been a deliberate attempt to keep the American people in the dark or — worse — completely mislead them into thinking that everything is good and acceptable. But it is not.
- Misleading Highway Safety Info from the NTSB – Part 1 (May 2017)
- Misleading Highway Safety Info’ from the NTSB – Part 2 (May 2017)