car fatality rates: an international perspective

Yesterday, Peter K. requested that I put the US driving safety statistics in an international perspective. Here are four figures on this topic.

The driving fatality rates in the EU by region. These rates include fatalities caused by driving, and therefore, pedestrians killed by cars are included. “The total road death toll was cut by 48 % between 1991 and 2008 and has fallen by 31 % since the year 2000.” Eastern Europe looks kinda dangerous here, and Italy doesn’t live up to its dangerous driving reputation.

Here are the traffic fatalities per 100K inhabitants. Only about half of the people who died were in cars, although I suspect that less developed countries contributed to more pedestrian deaths.

Here are the traffic fatalities per 100M miles driven. The last figure didn’t normalize the fatalities according to how much people drive in different countries. This figure, on the other hand, better reflects how good the drivers are in different countries. However, countries with high speed limits (think of the Autobahn) may fare a little worse, since accidents at high speeds tend more be more deadly. Again, half of the victims were not in cars. Therefore, you might not want to be a pedestrian in UAE.

This is my favorite figure. Here I tested whether people who drove more got more practice, and therefore, led to safer driving conditions in their countries, a possible upside to driving a lot [link to data from the EU countries]. The x-axis shows the number of cars per 1000 inhabitants, a proxy for how much people drove (This isn’t perfect, but I couldn’t find the actual number of miles driven). The y-axis has per capita car fatality rates (per 100K). There is certainly a negative relationship here, with more cars associated with fewer fatalities. However, this only explains ~19% of the variation.

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4 responses to “car fatality rates: an international perspective

  • Dan Black

    I’m intrigued by the relatively high level of deaths in the highlands of Scotland in the first figure.

  • Laura McLay

    @Dan: While they are relatively high compared to Europe, I think they are relatively low compared to UAE and the developing world. Also, that figure is normalized per capita, meaning that it doesn’t take how much people drive into account. If you look at Spain, you will notice that the Madrid area looks really great. But there, people probably don’t drive very much. So, it’s possible that people just drive more in the Highlands.

  • John

    Thank you, this really caught my interest as I used to work in the transportation planning field (and I like maps!). I was wondering if the N. Scotland issue might also be related to relative investment in road safety per unit of road. As far as I understand, safety/traffic engineers – in the UK at least – have used engineering, enforcement and education measures to reduce accidents historically. In my experience, rural areas can tend to lose out in infrastructure and related spending. I lived in rural Cambridgeshire and one issue with the outdated road network was that some people sometimes miss the sharp bends (after boring straight, flat stretches) and head into drainage ditches. But more generally, if road safety engineering really works, as I’m led to believe, then I’d be interested to know how much the least performing European regions are spending on it relative to their increase in GDP and mobility.

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