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 statistics 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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Highway Crashes in Arizona Increase for Sixth Consecutive Year in 2016

Crash scene photo by Nathan Rupert – Creative Commons

Motor vehicle crashes, injuries and fatalities continued their steady six-year rise in Arizona in 2016, according to the most recent data from the state’s Department of Transportation.

At a time when the state’s population grew by an average 1.4 percent a year, the number of vehicle crashes rose an average 2.8 percent a year between 2011 and 2016, while injuries rose 1.8 percent a year and fatalities increased by 4.1 percent per year, according to the DOT’s Annual Crash Facts Report released last month.

The cost of those crashes mounted in the billions each year, although a recent change in how the state measures those numbers makes a direct year-to-year comparison difficult.

Experts point to several possible reasons for the rise in crashes, ranging from lax state laws on highway safety to bad drivers….

Read the full article, from Cronkite News / Arizona PBS


One key thing that has not been mentioned in the “reasons for the rise in crashes” is the inevitable involvement of the end of the financial recession.  It is a proven fact that when a recession strikes, the overall mileage driven in vehicles decreases and the numbers of crashes and deaths fall.  And when a recession ends, the opposite occurs.

It is ironic that as road deaths fell during the early part of the ‘2008’ recession all sorts of departments were claiming the credit for the significant drop in crashes and deaths, but now that the numbers are increasing once again, nobody wants to take the responsibility anymore!

Eddie Wren, CEO & Chief Instructor — Advanced Drivers of North America

South Carolina has Worst U.S. Fatality Rate for Rural Roads

On our Advanced Drivers of North America courses for defensive and advanced driving, we inevitably ask the trainees which type of road in America is the most dangerous in terms of people being killed, between:

  • Fast, divided highways;
  • Fast arterial roads leading into large towns and cities;
  • Business and retail-zone streets;
  • Inner-city side-streets;
  • Rural roads.

To be fair, a few people do get the answer correct — all kudos to them — and the correct answer is that in America and in most other developed nations, more people are killed in crashes on rural roads than on all other types of road added together.

There are several factors which create this situation, including;

  • Inappropriate speeds on narrow and sometimes curvy & hilly roads;
  • Road maintenance and traffic signs, etc., can be questionable;
  • Slow-moving, large agricultural vehicles are often common (see photo);
  • Mud and agricultural detritus can be occasional, serious hazards;
  • Wild animals as well as farm animals can be more likely, on the road;
  • There’s relatively very little police enforcement;
  • Because of low enforcement, drunk-driving etc., can be more common;
  • Local drivers’ over-confidence that “nobody will be coming,” etc.

Yesterday — June 27 — the Post and Courier ran a saddening article under the headline ‘South Carolina leads nation in fatality rate for rural roads, study says’, and while that word “leads” is confusing, it eventually became clear that “nearly four people died on [SC] state rural roads for every 100 million miles of travel.”

Four deaths per 100 million miles might sound like a small figure to any layman who is not “up” on the subject but believe me it is not.  The latest figures show the U.S. national rate to be 1.13 and South Carolina’s overall rate to be 1.89.  In other words, a rate of “nearly four” is about 250 percent higher than the national average and about 67 percent higher than South Carolina’s own overall average.  To put it another way (using 2016 figures), if the US average road death rate was the same as South Carolina’s rate of deaths on rural roads, the annual number of highway fatalities in America would skyrocket from 40,200 per year — which is already far too high — to something approaching a mind-numbing 140,700.

Read the full article, from the Post and Courier.

Eddie Wren, CEO & Chief InstructorAdvanced Drivers of North America

The Largest Increase in USA Road Deaths in Fifty Years

“Since 2014, U.S. traffic deaths have surged 14 percent — the largest increase in more than half a century. Last year, the number of fatalities jumped 6 percent, to 40,200.”

The Hill, June 22, 2017.

In San Diego, Cars are Deadlier than Guns – June 2017

Friday, June 23, 2017


“…In pure numbers, more people die from car crashes in San Diego than are murdered. The city’s police department counted 260 traffic deaths on city streets from 2012 to 2016, and 206 murders over the same time period. Adding in the number of people who die on San Diego freeways, which are governed by Caltrans, there were more than twice as many traffic deaths as there were murders….”



Ranking Countries for Road Safety – the ‘Per Vehicles’ Rate, 2015

Deaths per 10,000 Vehicles

  1.   0.15   Iceland
  2.   0.37   Norway
  3.   0.41   Switzerland
  4.   0.46  Sweden
  5.   0.47   Netherlands
  6.   0.51   Spain
  7.   0.51   UK
  8.   0.52   Finland
  9.   0.53   Japan
  10.   0.61   Germany
  11.   0.61   Denmark
  12.   0.66  Australia
  13.   0.66  Italy
  14.   0.67   Austria
  15.   0.77   Ireland
  16.   0.79   Slovenia
  17.   0.80   France
  18.   0.81    Luxembourg
  19.   0.83* Canada
  20.   0.84   Greece
  21.   0.87   New Zealand
  22.   0.94   Israel
  23.    1.08   Czech Republic
  24.    1.11*  Belgium
  25.    1.12    Portugal
  26.    1.19    USA
  27.    1.21    Poland
  28.    1.66   Hungary
  29.    1.78   Lithuania
  30.   2.24   Argentina
  31.   2.27* Korea
  32.   4.74   Chile

What does this mean in relation to the USA?

Sadly the seemingly small numbers listed above are very misleading.        By this metric, if America (1.19) could match the per vehicle fatality rate of Norway (in second place at 0.37) an astonishing 22,516 American lives would have been saved in 2015 alone – and a similar number every year – and an vastly larger quantity of injuries would have been avoided or have been less serious.


At the time of posting, 2015 was the most recently available data.

* represents data from the previous year

Also see: Ranking Countries for Road Safety – the ‘Per Capita’ Rate, 2015

Source: IRTAD data as shown on 21 June, 2017, at:



Ranking Countries for Road Safety – the ‘Per Capita’ Rate, 2015

Deaths per 100,000 Population

  1.   2.3   Norway
  2.   2.6   Sweden
  3.   2.9* UK
  4.   3.0   Switzerland
  5.   3.1    Netherlands
  6.   3.2   Denmark
  7.   3.6* Spain
  8.   3.6   Ireland
  9.   3.8   Israel
  10.   3.8   Japan
  11.   4.3   Germany
  12.   4.7   Finland
  13.   5.1    Australia
  14.   5.3    Iceland
  15.   5.4* Canada
  16.   5.4   France
  17.   5.5   Austria
  18.   5.6   Italy
  19.   5.7   Slovenia
  20.   6.0   Luxembourg
  21.   6.1*  Portugal
  22.   6.6   Hungary
  23.   6.7   Belgium
  24.   6.9   Czech Republic
  25.   7.0   Greece
  26.   7.0   New Zealand
  27.   7.6   Poland
  28.   8.3   Lithuania
  29.   9.1   Korea
  30. 10.2* USA
  31. 11.9    Chile
  32. 12.4    Argentina

What does this mean in relation to the USA?

Sadly the seemingly small numbers listed above are very misleading.        If America (10.2) could match the per capita fatality rate of the leading country (Norway, at 2.3), an astonishing 25,308 American lives would have been saved in 2015 alone – and a similar number every year – and an vastly larger quantity of injuries would have been avoided or have been less serious.


At the time of posting, 2015 was the most recently available data.

* represents data from the previous year

Also see: Ranking Countries for Road Safety – the ‘Per Vehicles‘ Rate, 2015

Source: IRTAD data as shown on 21 June, 2017, at:

Road Rage in the USA – Latest Death Figures

May 31, 2017


“…Road rage causes a relatively small, but increasing percentage of fatalities on U.S. roadways, linked to 467 fatal crashes in 2015 or 1.3 percent, up from 80 or 0.2 percent in 2006, an increase of almost 500 percent in 10 years, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

“The number of road rage incidents that involve firearms also appears to be rising. Last month, The Trace, a nonprofit news organization focused on gun violence, found that cases of road rage involving a firearm more than doubled to 620 in 2016 from 247 in 2014, with 136 people killed in those three years. The count included cases of motorists brandishing or firing a weapon at another driver or passenger…”  [End]

Source: Chicago Tribune


Traffic Deaths in Arizona have Increased by an Astonishing 24% in Two Years

Across the USA, traffic deaths went up by a hugely unacceptable 15 percent in the two years from 2013 through 2015. The national figures for 2016 are not yet available, but is this horrendous situation in Arizona an indicator of where the national figures are heading next?

An article from the North Phoenix News on May 29, 2017, is the source for the above figures, and it also makes some very saddening claims for the main causative factors in 2016’s 950 road deaths in the state (up from 768 in 2014).

The major, cited factors are:

  • Speeding (involved in – quote – “most collisions in Arizona”)
  • Alcohol  (involved in ~33% of deaths)
  • Failure to wear a seatbelt, child safety device or crash helmet (involved in 35% of deaths)

USA Performance in Multi-National Road-Death Rates

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.

Eddie Wren, CEO & Chief InstructorAdvanced Drivers of North America


Also see: