Other countries have made much more progress in reducing fatal motor vehicle accidents than the U.S.

Public health experts often cite reduced car crash deaths as one of the most successful examples of how common-sense laws can dramatically reduce injuries and deaths. Through strategies like enforcing seat belt usage and drunken driving laws, the U.S. from 2000 to 2013 reduced its rate of crash deaths by 31 percent. Some who herald such an achievement even use it as an example of how similar approaches could be applied to curb gun violence.

But it turns out the U.S. isn't doing as well as it could be when it comes to crash deaths – or certainly not as well as many of its counterparts. In fact, the U.S. had the worst rate of crash deaths in 2013 per 100,000 people when compared with 19 other high-income countries, according to a Vital Signs report released Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 32,000 people in the U.S. died in car crashes that year – the latest covered by the report – and an additional 2 million people were injured.

These deaths continue to occur because of alcohol-impaired driving, speeding, and failing to use seat belts, car seats or booster seats. According

Erin Sauber-Schatz, a transportation safety team lead with the CDC and an author of the report, said in a call with reporters Wednesday that distracted driving – which includes texting while driving – contributes to about 10 percent of fatal accidents and 18 percent of injury accidents.

To assemble its report, the CDC analyzed data compiled by the World Health Organization and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. Study authors admitted that it's difficult to quantify all the reasons for differences between countries, noting that the U.S. has a significantly higher population than the countries it was being compared to, as well as a greater dependence on cars. But they partially adjusted for these differences by controlling for population size, miles traveled and number of registered vehicles.

The researchers found that the U.S. had both the most motor vehicle crash deaths per 100,000 people and per 10,000 registered vehicles. Other than the U.S., countries included in the study were Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

The U.S. scored so poorly in part because so many drivers and passengers still do not buckle up. Among countries for which seat belt use data were available, the U.S. ranked 18 out of 20 for front-seat use – at 87 percent – and 13 out of 18 for seat belt use among backseat passengers.

On average, 94 percent of people in the studied high-income countries wore seat belts while in the front seat. France had the highest adherence to front seat belt use, at 99 percent, and Austria had the lowest – just shy of the U.S. – at 86 percent.

Authors of the CDC report noted that countries differ in auto safety enforcement actions. For instance, in some U.S. states, a seat belt is only required if you are sitting in the front of an automobile.

Alcohol use also contributed to the mortality rates, with the U.S. tied for the second-highest percentage of deaths involving alcohol-impaired driving among 19 countries evaluated.

Countries vary on how they define drunken driving. In Canada, the U.S. and the United Kingdom, the blood alcohol concentration limit is at 0.08 grams per deciliter, the report said, while in other countries it goes as low as 0.02 percent.

Other differences also exist. For instance, while the U.S. has a higher legal drinking age than many other developed nations, other countries have a higher age at which they allow teens to drive a car. "It is difficult to tease out the different pieces of road safety because it's a complex issue," Sauber-Schatz said.

Speeding also played a role in death rates. Out of 15 countries for which data about speeding were reported, the U.S. had the eighth-highest percentage of crash deaths.

15 countries reported the percentage of deaths related to speeding. 

Sauber-Schatz cited speed cameras as an effective way to lower these deaths. In Sweden, which had the lowest crash death rate overall, speed cameras across the country have contributed to reducing deaths, she said. Authors of the report said if the U.S. had the same crash death rate as Sweden, about 24,000 fewer lives would have been lost in 2013.

While the U.S. has significantly reduced crash deaths, it also still fell behind in its progress. On average, 19 comparative nations had reduced crash deaths by 56 percent between 2000 and 2013, with Spain having the highest reduction at 75 percent.

"It is important to compare us not to our past but to our potential. Seeing that other high-income countries are doing better, we know we can do better, too," Dr. Debra Houry, director of the CDC's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, said in a statement.

Source: US News


Last updated on: 2016-07-19 | Link to this post