Why the US Leads High-Income Countries in the Number of Road Deaths

by | Nov 13, 2017

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that approximately 90 people die each day in the United States due to motor vehicle crashes. That number is almost double the number of roadway deaths of any other high-income country. Between 2000 and 2013, the U.S. reduced highway deaths by approximately 31 percent. Many analysts agree that vehicle crash fatalities could be further reduced in the U.S. by adopting proven strategies.

Who is at highest risk?

According to a report by the World Health Organization (WHO), 90 percent of crash-related deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries. In high-income countries like the United States, people from lower socioeconomic levels are more likely to be involved in a fatal car crash. Young males are three times more likely to die in a vehicle crash than young females.

Common causes of vehicle deaths

To effectively reduce the number of highway deaths, it is important to understand the causes. Doing so can help individuals, vehicle manufacturers and lawmakers address safety issues to minimize the risk of crashes and prevent serious injuries and deaths when accidents do occur.

  • Speed is directly related to both the likelihood of having a crash and the probability that deaths will occur in the accident. A personal injury attorney can advise pedestrians or passengers who have been injured due to speeding of their rights and options.
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol and other psychoactive drugs accounts for nearly one-third of all U.S. traffic-related deaths. A person driving after taking amphetamines is five times more likely to be in a fatal accident than someone who hasn’t.
  • Proper use of safety equipment can significantly reduce fatalities. Wearing a motorcycle helmet reduces the risk of death in an accident by 40 percent. Wearing a seat belt reduces the risk of death for front seat passengers by as much as 50 percent.
  • Distracted driving is an evolving problem as new technologies emerge. Drivers using phones are four times more likely to be in a crash. Drivers using hands-free devices are not much safer.

What can be done?

Erin Sauber-Schatz, Ph.D., M.P.H. is a team leader for the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Erin says 10,000 lives could be saved every year by eliminating alcohol-impaired driving. An additional 3,000 deaths could be prevented by increasing seat belt usage to 100 percent.