Compared with just a quarter century ago, driving on American roads is roughly twice as safe now as it was back in 1979. This can be attributed to safer cars and roads, new seatbelt laws and DUI crackdowns, but the end result remains that the number of people killed per vehicle-kilometers of travel in 1979 is about double the figure that it is today (20.8 per billion vehicle-kilometers in 1979 versus 9.4 per billion vehicle-kilometers last year, why they used kilometers instead of miles, we don't know).

Sounds like great news, right? It's not if you consider that over the same period, America, which was rated as having the safest roads in the world during the '70s, has since fallen behind countries such as Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Norway, the U.K., the Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland, according to research conducted by Leonard Evans for a new book on traffic safety.

The difference in safety ratings between the U.S. and the rest of these countries is the fact that where America has focused on increasing vehicle safety and technology through regulations, other countries have honed in on preventing the causes of accidents via more thorough education and licensing programs as well as tighter law enforcement.

[Source: AutoWeek]

Part of the reason why America has been slow to adopt such policies is the time and cost involved. In many European countries, residents can't even learn to drive until they're 18 and then there are the education programs which can take years to complete. By contrast, many U.S. states allow people over the age of 18 to attain their licenses without attending any driver training programs whatsoever.

America can return to the number one spot in road safety but it's going to take a monumental change in policy and driver education to bring it about. Something all Americans will have to foot the bill for.

Share This Photo X