U.S. lags in road safety

Other countries leave U.S. in the dust on motor vehicle death reductions

head on collision

DEADLY CONSEQUENCES  Car crash deaths drop when countries find ways to boost seat belt use and reduce drunk driving. 

Thue/Wikimedia Commons (PubDom)

U.S. drivers love to hit the road. The problem is doing so safely.

In 2013, 32,894 people in the United States died in motor vehicle crashes. Although down since 2000, the overall death rate — 10.3 per 100,000 people — tops 19 other high-income countries, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported July 8. Belgium is a distant second with 6.5 deaths per 100,000. Researchers reviewed World Health Organization and other data on vehicle crash deaths, seat belt use and alcohol-impaired driving in 2000 and 2013.

Canada had the highest percentage of fatal crashes caused by drunk drivers: 33.6 percent. New Zealand and the United States tied for second at 31 percent. But Canada and 16 other countries outperformed the United States on seat belt use — even though, in 2013, 87 percent of people in the United States reported wearing safety belts while riding in the front seat.

Spain saw the biggest drop — 75 percent — in its crash death rate. That country improved nearly all aspects of road safety, including decreasing alcohol-impaired driving and increasing seat belt use, the researchers say.

ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT Most high-income countries have managed to reduce their rate of motor vehicle deaths, from 2000 to 2013, but the U.S. and others have more work to do. E.K. Sauber-Schatz et al/MMWR July 8, 2016

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