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When you hear that the US is 42nd out of 48 countries when it comes to number of deaths per capita, it might sound like a good thing. Until you find out that the rankings go from lowest to highest -- which means, yes, that of the measured countries, there are only six places where driving is more deadly than the Land of the Free. (Tip: you might want to avoid driving in Russia and Lithuania for a few more years.)

The posited reasons are varied and numerous, and include the brevity of driver training, lax laws, weak enforcement, no emphasis on public transport, little public awareness, and a lack of Federal legislation. Regardless of the causes, the effect is that it's riskier to get behind the wheel here than it is in the Poland or Estonia. This is despite the fact that cars have gotten exponentially safer, and the US leads the world in the adoption of electronic stability control, said to be "the greatest life-saving technology since the seat belt."

If there's any consolation, it's that the US does considerably better in the number of fatalities per mile driven, where the US comes in at number 11. Before you celebrate, in 1970 the US was number one. Which country has the lowest number of fatalities per capita? Malta.

[Source: New York Times]



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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 37 Comments
      • 8 Years Ago
      Think of the statistics in the article this way.

      Deaths per capita: absolute safety...how likely are you to die in a traffic accident during your lifetime. PERSONAL safety comparable between different countries

      Deaths per mileage: relative safety...ROAD safety comparable between different countries

      I don't think it would matter much to me, if I died in a traffic accident after driving 400K miles in the US compared to 250K miles in Europe.
      • 8 Years Ago
      The title of this post is very sloppy--"deaths per capita" among what studied group? "Deaths per capita" by itself only means a number of deaths out of the entire human population. (The NYT article also uses the phrase "fatalities per capita.") The authors seem to be referring to the number of deaths among the total number of people traveling in automobiles, among industrialized countries. That would probably exclude some places in southeast Asia, including India (although many who live there, I'm sure, would dispute that their country is not "industrialized"). A more troubling statistic from the original article is that the U.S. rates number eleven in fatalities per miles driven, down from number one (the best rating) in 1970.

      One alternative, though, is the police-state regulations of the U.K., where traffic cameras and draconian penalties are standard in most areas. Would most Americans trade the freedom to kill themselves in a traffic accident for constant electronic patrolling of our highways? Probably not.
        • 8 Years Ago
        I don't know if you've ever been to the UK, but it really isn't like that at all. There are a fairly high number of cameras in built up areas and in roadworks, but get out of town and on to quiet country roads where there the roads have a 60 limit and you won't see a camera or speed trap unless you are really unlucky. I actually can't think of the last time I saw a speed trap on a motorway other than in roadworks.

        The difference in the number of police cars on the road between the UK and Chicago where I live now is like night and day.
      • 8 Years Ago
      I agree with all the comments that the true statistic to monitor is deaths per km traveled. However, since it seems like most people didn't read the article (including John Ramsey), let me point out that most of it is actually stressing that the US is behind the rest of western Europe on that statistic too.

      It says the US was at 30 deaths per billion kms in the 70s compared to 35 for the Europeans and now it is 9 deaths per billion km compared to 6 for the Europeans. Bottom line is that the US needs to really get cracking on better driver training and laws that prevent usage of cellphones etc. (the article talks in some detail about why we are lagging behind)

      Also, let me just say (and I am sure a lot of you will agree) that this headline was nothing short of pure entertainment news sensationalism (think E! TV or one of those 10pm local news reports). Autoblog as much as I love you guys, the editorial control on this website has gone to the dumps of late. Please please please please don't become like some of the other automotive blogs. *End rant...sorry!*
      • 8 Years Ago
      Shocking, considering the abysmal skills of the typical drivers out there. We get what we get when our system for licensing and enforcement is a joke....

      -IB
      • 8 Years Ago
      You know what would dramatically reduce fatalities on US roads? DRIVE RIGHT, PASS LEFT. That one tiny change in driving behavior would save thousands of lives a year. People that drive slowly in the left lanes and refuse to move out of the way for faster cars force the faster cars to swerve through traffic, thereby increase accidents and fatalities dramatically.

      In every other country that i've driven in, people understand that you only use the left lane to pass, otherwise, you stay in the right lanes. and if you're in the left lane, and someone comes up behind you, you move right to let them pass. for some reason, people in the US don't understand this...
      • 8 Years Ago
      Mitsubishi 300GT. I'm assuming the driver's dead.
        • 8 Years Ago
        Yes...according to this picture, the stats only apply to people driving this Mitsubishi model car. ;)
      • 8 Years Ago
      Why don't we just call it what it is- a thinning of the herd.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Anyone who talks about "how they drive in Asia" like it's a bad thing has no idea how to drive. I just drove for the first time in Malaysia (on the wrong side of the road) and put 6000km on the car in one month, they are far better than US drivers.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Oh come on... like anyone drives in Malta anyways.

      At least the trend is to improve I guess... but no, not really that surprising.
        • 8 Years Ago
        Another handy tip: learn to recognize sarcasm and adjust comments accordingly.
        • 8 Years Ago
        Actually almost EVERYONE drives in Malta, with a car for every 2 persons. Our problem is not that nobody drives, but that the roads will not cope with the increase in cars.

        Handy tip: Next time, check your facts before making a fool of yourself.
      • 8 Years Ago

      The worst driving is probably in India.
      • 8 Years Ago
      "Regardless of the causes, the effect is that it's riskier to get behind the wheel here than it is in the Poland or Estonia."

      That's total crap! The reason is simple – we drive more.

      Consider the source - The New York Times. Yea, right.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Per capita, does that include the Amish?
      deaths per mile is the way to go. Look at the graph, ~1991-93 is where things go wrong. What happened in 1993? Jurassic Park & the Ford Explorer, and the proliferation of SUVs.

      “Here we are, probably the richest country in the world,” that is such a cliche line.
      Watch this and think again.
      http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-542082512417844949&q=genre%3Aeducational+money+as+debt&total=75&start=0&num=10&so=1&type=search&plindex=6
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