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United States Traffic Fatalities Still A Major Problem

Steve Wagner

Despite reducing traffic deaths by 31%, a new report shows there is still much work to be done. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have released a new report comparing traffic fatality data from 20 high-income countries. The United States is far from leading the way. Well, they’re leading the way, but it’s not a good thing. With 32,000 traffic deaths each year, the U.S. leads all 20 countries for motor vehicle deaths per capita.

The CDC analyzed data from each country for the years 2000-2013. In order for a country to be included in the study, they needed to provide specific data, have a population over one million, be considered “high-income” by the World Bank definition, and be a member country in the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The CDC also used World Health Organization (WHO) estimates for each country as markers for accuracy—self-reported data needed to approximate WHO data to be considered valid enough for inclusion.

Old Problems Need New Solutions

The CDC report reaffirmed all the problems we know we already have in this country: speeding, drunk driving, and failure to wear seatbelts. Though other countries documented in the study certainly experience some challenges with regard to these issues, they have found ways of significantly decreasing the public health impact. The average 13-year decrease in motor vehicle fatalities among the 20 participating countries was 56%, nearly double that of the United States. Spain’s decrease was 75.1%. The difference is particularly astounding when you imagine the 18,000 additional people who would have lived if our decrease equaled the average.

Why have we been so comparatively ineffective in this area? The CDC report shows the U.S. to have the:

  • Highest number of motor vehicle fatalities per 100,000 people;
  • Highest number of motor vehicle fatalities per 10,000 vehicle registrations;
  • Second-highest number of alcohol-involved traffic deaths;
  • Third-lowest rate of front passenger seatbelt usage.

According to The Economist, Sweden is one country that has greatly decreased traffic deaths despite significantly increased numbers of cars on the road. How do they do it? First and foremost, they have designed their roadways for safety, as opposed to convenience. That means low city speed-limits, pedestrian zones, barriers separating cars from bikes, adding high safety-crossing, and strict policing of drunk drivers and those who speed. In 2012, only one child under 7 was killed in a car accident in Sweden. In the U.S., that number was nearly 350.

It’s clear we need to get even more serious about reducing traffic deaths, both as communities and individuals. It will be a difficult process and may require changes people find uncomfortable; however, the lives saved would make the efforts worthwhile. Until these changes occur, we will continue to see thousands of motor vehicle accident deaths each year. Should you or a loved one find yourself injured in one of these accidents, the attorneys at Wagner Reese can provide you and your family with experience and support needed to help find justice and compensation for your injuries. Call us today for a free consultation: (888) 204-8440.

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