Americans are apparently more likely to injure and seriously hurt each other while driving. We seem to have a real knack for carnage while driving our vehicles.
In 2020, for every 100,000 Americans, there were 11.4 killed in traffic accidents, according to an opinion piece published by Bloomberg. That compares to:
- 6.3 in New Zealand
- 3.3 in Israel
- 2.9 in Spain
Unlike most developed nations, over time, the number of accident-related deaths is increasing, especially for pedestrians and bicyclists. Last year was the deadliest for pedestrians in the previous 40 years in the US, and fatalities of bicyclists increased by 44% from 2010 to 2020.
If these numbers don’t phase you because you think this kind of bloodletting is inevitable in a country dependent on personal vehicles made primarily of wide-open spaces, the same could be said of Canada. North of the border, your chances of getting killed in a vehicle accident are 60% lower than here in the land of the free and the home of speeding drivers distracted by smartphones.
The US is More Dangerous Because Preventing Deaths Isn’t a Priority
The author, David Zipper, states our culture and geography aren’t the causes. It’s due to government policy decisions prioritizing fast vehicle travel and profits for their manufacturers over safety. Other countries make different decisions, and their citizens are much safer as a result.
The danger difference in US roads is relatively new. In the last 30 years, our death rates climbed steadily while those of other developed nations fell. We had a 16-year high for traffic accident fatalities, while Norway and Japan had the fewest number since the 1940s.
Some of the reasons for the difference include:
- Heavy pickup trucks and SUVs are more popular here than in the rest of the world, thanks partly to lower fuel taxes in the US. Heavier vehicles, when they strike a pedestrian or other vehicle, are more likely to injure or kill than lighter ones
- The US puts more emphasis on personal vehicles and less on mass transit, which, for those who use it, is a much safer way to travel
- Real estate development encourages Americans to commute much farther to and from work
- Many European cities ban vehicles from many areas
- Stop lights equipped with cameras to facilitate sending tickets to drivers running red lights are common in other countries, while some US cities ban their use
Some in the auto industry claim more technology, like computer-driven vehicles, will make transportation safer. That’s yet to be shown, while other countries have succeeded with low-tech approaches:
- Helsinki, Finland, had no traffic deaths in 2019, compared to 20 to 30 annually in the 1980s. The city reduced speed limits, changed road designs, and discouraged driving in the city. Helsinki and Louisville have roughly the same city population (about 630,000). In 2020, traffic accidents in Louisville killed 30 pedestrians.
- France has restricted driving in cities for the last 30 years
- There’s no on-street overnight parking in Japan. This cuts the number of vehicles driving at night and makes pedestrians and bicyclists more visible
These approaches may seem drastic when you’re able to get where you want, when you want, in your vehicle. But if your parent, sibling, spouse, or child is killed by a large vehicle speeding down a street, they may make a lot more sense.
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If you or a family member are injured or killed in a traffic accident, we can help. Call the Fleck Firm at (270) 446-7000 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation. We’ll talk about the accident, the injuries, how Kentucky law may apply, and your best options to proceed. Insurance companies have lawyers. You should have one too.