Why is America the world leader in car crashes?
Public health experts often cite the reduction in car crashes as one of the most successful examples of how common-sense laws can significantly reduce injuries and deaths. The United States reduced the death rate by 31 percent from 2000 to 2013, using strategies such as seat belt use and drunk driving. Some people who predict such achievements even use it as an example of how to apply similar methods to curb gun violence.
But it turns out that America’s performance in terms of death is not as good as many of its peers are. In fact, according to a report on vital signs released Wednesday by the centers for disease control and prevention, the United States killed 19 people in 2013, higher than other high-income countries. More than 32, 000 people in the United States were killed in the crash, the latest in a series of reports, and another two million people were injured.
The deaths continued because of drunken driving, speeding, failing to use seat belts, car seats or booster seats. About half of the drivers or passengers who died in the United States in 2013 were reportedly not wearing seat belts.
Distracted driving – including texting while driving – accounts for 10 percent of fatal accidents and 18 percent of injuries, said Erin Sauber Schatz, head of the CDC’s transportation safety team, in an interview on Wednesday.
To compile the report, the CDC analyzed data compiled by the world health organization and the organization for economic cooperation and development. The researchers acknowledge that it is hard to quantify the reasons for the differences between countries, pointing out that the United States has a significantly higher population than countries that are comparable to it, and more dependent on cars. But they adjust these differences by controlling the size of the population, the length of travel and the number of registered vehicles.
The researchers found that in the United States, motor vehicle fatalities were the highest among every 100,000 registered vehicles in the United States. In addition to outside the United States, included in the study of countries include Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK.
America scores poorly, in part because so many drivers and passengers still have no buttons. In countries where seat belt use data is available, the United States ranks 18th (87%) in the front seat, and seat belts in the backseat passengers are 18.
On average, 94 per cent of the high-income countries studied wore seat belts. France has the highest rate of seat belts, with 99 per cent, Austria the lowest – only the us – at 86 per cent.
The authors of the CDC report note that countries differ in their vehicle safety enforcement actions. In some American states, for example, seat belts are required only if you are sitting in front of a car.
The use of alcohol also led to a rise in death rates, with the United States ranking second among the 19 countries evaluated, involving the percentage of deaths from drunk driving.
The definition of drunk driving varies from country to country. In Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom, blood alcohol levels were limited to 0.08 grams per deciliter, while in other countries, the report said, the rate was as low as 0.02 percent.
Other differences exist. In the United States, for example, the legal drinking age is higher than in many other developed countries, while teenagers in other countries are older. “It’s hard to tease out different road safety factors, because it’s a complex issue,” says sauber-schatz.
Speeding also plays a role in mortality. Of the 15 countries reporting data on speeding, the U.S. has the eighth highest percentage of deaths.
Sauber-Schatz refers to speed camera as an effective way to reduce these deaths. In Sweden, she said, the overall death rate was the lowest, and high-speed video cameras across the country contributed to the decline. The report’s authors say that if America’s death rate is the same as Sweden’s, it will reduce the lives of 24,000 people in 2013.
Although the death toll in the United States has fallen sharply, it is still lagging behind. From 2000 to 2013, the average death toll in the 19 comparators fell by 56%, while Spain’s fell by the most, to 75%.
“To compare us with our past, but to compare our potential and our potential is very important, because I saw other high-income countries do better, we know we can do better”, the United States centers for disease control and prevention Debra, director of the national center for injury, prevention and control of Dr Houry said in a statement.