Road-safety in the U.S

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 35,092 people lost their lives in crashes on American roadways in 2015, a 7.2 percent increase from 2014 (32,744 people). As Figure 1 shows, this is the largest percentage increase in nearly 50 years. The previous one was registered between 1965 and 1966.

In the last ten years, there was a declining trend in fatalities, with the exception of 2012, caused by increased belt use, reduced impaired driving and vehicle improvements. So what changed between 2014 and 2015? The Economists Data Team found that it could likely be a growth in the use of roads due to reduced gas prices and a healthier economy.  

In comparison with other high-income countries, the U.S has by far the worst road safety record. The Data Team of The Economist compared road traffic deaths in 19 rich countries for years 2000 and 2013 and found that the U.S has a rate of 10.9 deaths per 100,000 people per year. Belgium, the second country on the list, has a rate close to 6 deaths.

However, it is important to mention that Americans drive more often than other citizens in rich countries and that the U.S has a relatively high share of rural roads, which tend to be less safe. In this sense, if we take into consideration the miles traveled, the U.S has fewer road fatalities than Japan, Slovenia and Belgium.

The data also shows the efforts of several countries to reduce fatalities on their roads between 2000 and 2013, represented by the longer bars in the chart. For example, Slovenia’s road fatalities were higher than the U.S in 2000 and after 13 years it was 40% lower. Compared to this and other countries, the U.S only exhibits moderate progress.

Further reading:|image1
Daniela Oliva

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