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.”
In developed countries around the world, it has long been known that rural roads are the location for far more deaths, measured against the total miles driven, than any other type of road or highway. And this is equally true in the U.S.A.
“Twenty-five percent of America’s road miles are driven on rural roads but this results, very disproportionately, in around fifty percent of all U.S. roadway fatalities.” — Eddie Wren, ADoNA.
There are several contributory reasons for this very serious situation:
I would very much like to stop writing about the repetitive lies told about the USA’s alleged success in cutting road deaths when, in fact, the country does very poorly in this crucial situation compared to the other developed countries of the world. But the lies continue and therefore so will my rebuttals, in order to give the American people a more accurate picture.
Let me make the vital point once more: If you, the government departments and major road safety organizations of the USA, keep peddling false propaganda telling the people of this great nation that ‘we’ are doing well in the fight against highway fatalities, when the US has in reality, long been effectively the worst-performing wealthy country in the world, with a rate of deaths over four-times worse than the leading nations, the public will believe you and say nothing when, in fact, they should be yelling at the Government to stop the unnecessary slaughter!
Some government-level people have made the excuse to me that it is simply mistakes, or ’rounding,’ or ‘simplification’ of the data, but apart from being an egregious understatement this is unacceptable. The facts are regularly being twisted far beyond the context of those words.
Here is just one illustration of how far and wide these very misleading ‘inaccuracies’ are being spread:
On June 18, 2016, David Frum, a “lifelong Conservative [who] campaigned for Ronald Reagan and wrote speeches for George W. Bush,” appeared on the BBC HardTalk television show, around the world, and repeated some of the wildly erroneous propaganda about American road safety.
As part of his argument about banning assault rifles in the USA following the Orlando shooting massacre, he said this:
“One of the great public policy successes across the developed world and in the United States has been the reduction in automobile fatalities. It’s just dramatic what’s happened over the past generation. That isn’t because we did one magic thing that one nefarious industry had been blocking. Seat belts helped, yes. true. So did better cars. So did making it more difficult for 17-year-olds to get drivers’ licences… So did the crackdown on drunk driving.”
But this one short comment is full of gaping holes. Of the ~thirty member-nations of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development [OECD] — in other words, the world’s developed countries — the USA has the second-worst death rate and has made by far, by FAR, the least progress of any of the long-term members in reducing road deaths, over at least the last three decades and possibly much longer. Indeed currently, based on year-2015 figures and year-2016 estimated figures, the annual number of road deaths is truly rocketing back up again after the expectable slump caused by the global recession which started around 2008 — and America, rather predictably, is suffering a bigger rate of increase than in any other developed country!
If the USA could match the per capita road-death rate of the world’s two long-term, most reliably-performing road safety countries — Sweden and Britain — almost 30,000 American lives could be saved every year and a much higher number of people would be spared from serious injury.
Some U.S. professionals are pinning their hopes almost entirely on self-driving cars, but while such autonomous vehicles might eventually take away the embarrassment of the current reprehensible state of road safety standards in the USA, they are not even close to full fruition yet. (But then may come the quietly-ignored problem and dangers of criminals or terrorists hacking those vehicles!)
So when are U.S. politicians and people responsible for road safety going to stop perpetrating or silently accepting the lies and the propaganda about something that has killed more than a million Americans in just the last 25 years?
There have recently been discussions here in the U.S. how to emulate the greater successes and much greater road safety achieved by other countries — most notably the two most consistent, long-term leaders in this field, Sweden and Britain — but I have yet to see anything significant put into action as a result.
There are many good people working in different branches of U.S. highway safety and I hope that you will stand up against the tidal wave of misleading garbage that is poured over the American public. It’s time to tell the accurate truth and let the people of this wonderful nation know so that they can vote for those who will help protect their children and their grandchildren from this massive killer.
Inter alia, I hope that people in the USDOT, NHTSA, FHWA, NTSB, GHSA, State Governments, DMVs & RMVs, NSC, DSAA, ADTSEA and others will take this message to heart and will stand in the way of the liars, propagandists, and exaggerators who are hiding the full extent of this very dangerous, long-term situation from the public, and are thereby letting the American people down.
- Misleading Highway Safety Info’ from the NTSB – Part 1 (Part 2 is linked)
- Officials Mislead America About Highway Safety (article from 2003)