In many parts of the world, including the US, much progress has been made in raising awareness about the need for safe and sober driving. We see efforts along these lines daily in the US, where public service ads warning about the dangers of speeding, and of texting or drinking while driving, are ubiquitous, as are warnings from organizations like MADD and SADD. Nevertheless, there are still more than 30,000 traffic fatalities in this country every year. In some countries outside the US, the situation is better; in others, it is worse. But in all cases, there is room to improve road safety.
When measured by annual road-related fatalities in countries with populations of 1 million or greater, road safety varies widely. In the latest WHO report, Sweden’s roads are the world’s safest, with an estimated 3.0 road traffic deaths per 100,000 people. By contrast, the roads in the Dominican Republic are the least safe, with 41.7 deaths per 100,000. In the US, the number is 11.4; in Japan it is 5.2; and in the UK it is 3.7. When looked at by geographical region, Europe has the safest roads, with a collective 10.1 traffic fatalities per 100,000, and the Americas (North and South) are second, at 16.1. Roads in Africa are currently the least safe, with 24.1 deaths per 100,000.
Each region and country faces different road safety challenges. As already noted, in the US, we continue to battle against traditional problems such as drivers taking to the road after too many drinks. More recently, a new challenge has emerged: driving while distracted by digital devices. According to the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC), 18% of all fatal crashes in the US in 2010 were caused by driver distraction due to the use of digital communications devices, leading to more than 3,000 deaths and over 400,000 injuries. Citing a Virginia Tech Transportation Institute finding, the FCC notes that if you text while driving, you are 23 times as likely to be involved in an accident.
The estimated road fatality rate per 100,000 is 20.5 in China. Part of the challenge the Chinese face as they work to bring this number down is the large number of new and/or relatively inexperienced drivers on the road.
Each year, there are 20 million new drivers in China. Forty percent of all Chinese drivers have less than three years of driving experience and cause 45% of all fatal accidents. While experience may be the best teacher, by definition, gaining experience takes time. Recognizing educational efforts help speed up the process, the Chinese government has made educating its drivers and improving China’s road safety a high priority.
It will take the concerted efforts of the private sector and governments around the world to increase international road safety. Turning knowledge into habits is never easy, but it’s an effort worth making—for everyone’s sake.
Read more insights on travel safety here.
This article was produced by AIG and not by the Quartz editorial staff.