In 2013, more than 32,000 people died on U.S. roads, roughly 90 fatalities a day, according to the CDC.
The U.S. has seen a 31% reduction in its motor vehicle death rate per capita over the past 13 years. But compared with 19 other wealthy countries, which have declined an average of 56% during the same period, the U.S. has the slowest decrease. Road death rates in countries such as Spain and Denmark have dropped 75.1% and 63.5%, respectively.
If the United States had reduced its death rate to the average of other countries, 18,000 more lives would have been saved, according to the CDC report.
Researchers analyzed data from 2000 to 2013 from the World Health Organization and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. They compared U.S. numbers with those of 19 countries, including Japan, Sweden and the United Kingdom. They took into consideration accidents and fatalities that involved drivers, pedestrians, motorcyclists and bicyclists.
The United States also performed badly in other measures. It ranks first in crash deaths per 100,000 people and per 10,000 registered vehicles. It’s the second-highest, after Canada, in the percentage of deaths involving alcohol (at 31%). And the United States is the third-lowest, after Austria and Belgium, in national front seat belt use (at 87%) among the 20 countries.
The CDC Vital Signs report calls this “a serious public health issue.”
“It is important to compare us not to our past but to our potential. Seeing that other high-income countries are doing better, we know we can do better too,” Dr. Debra Houry, director of the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, said in a news release. “People of our nation deserve better and safer transport.”
Recent data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration showed a 7.7% increase in road deaths in 2015, jumping from 32,600 in 2014 to 35,200 last year.
Buckle up, don’t drive drunk, and obey speed limit
Houry attributed the high U.S. death rates to alcohol use, speeding and infrequent use of seat belts, especially among children. She mentioned Wednesday that 38% of children under the age 12 who died in car crashes in 2013 were not wearing seat belts.
The Vital Signs report says 3,000 more lives would be saved if everyone were buckled up.
To reduce deaths from drunken driving, the CDC suggests setting up public sobriety checkpoints, using a device that detects blood alcohol concentration for convicted offenders, lowering blood alcohol concentration limits, and maintaining and enforcing the minimum legal U.S. drinking age of 21 years.
Though there are many things that federal and state officials can do to improve road safety, drivers and passengers can follow these tips:
Use a seat belt in every seat, on every trip, no matter how short. Make sure children are always properly buckled into the back seat in a car seat, booster seat or seat belt, whichever is appropriate for their age, height and weight. Choose not to drive while impaired by alcohol or drugs, and help others do the same. Obey speed limits. Drive without distractions (such as using a cell phone or texting).