Millions of people drive and ride in cars every day in the United States. While driving or riding in a car is necessary for countless people throughout Ohio and the rest of the country, many are unaware that they are driving on the deadliest roads in the industrialized world.
Driving in the United States hasn’t always been this dangerous. According to the New York Times, car accident fatality rates in the United States used to be 10 percent lower than that of Canada and Australia in the 90’s. However, in the last two decades, those countries have begun campaigns that have reduced the fatality rates on their roads while the United States has not.
The United States now leads other industrialized countries for driver fatality rates according to the OECD Library. According to the statistics gathered in this report, the auto accident fatality rate in the United States is 40 percent higher than that of Canada and Europe. Another shocking statistic is that in the 1990’s, Slovenia had an auto accident fatality rate that was five times higher than the United States. In the present time, Slovenia has statistically safer roads than the US.
So why are traffic deaths so common in the United States?
Distracted Driving To Blame?
According to vox.com, the result of lower gas prices and lower unemployment (more people driving on the road) leads to more motor vehicle deaths. If this is truly the case, distracted driving may not be the main reason for America’s recent spike in driving deaths. American drivers are no more likely to be distracted behind the wheel than drivers in other developed nations, and yet, those countries have seen their driving fatality rates decrease over the same amount of time.
In 1970, the United States had 52,000 traffic deaths, and a group of 16 other developed countries accounted for 102,000. Fast-forward to 2012 and the United States accounted for 33,500 deaths while the same group of 16 countries accounted for just 24,500 collectively. In short, the United States – who used to lead the world in traffic safety – now accounts for the most traffic deaths among industrialized nations.
Road Design Saves Lives
What other countries have done that the United States has not in the past 45 years is take a long-term, cultural, political, and engineered approach to addressing traffic fatalities. Because of this, countries such as Sweden, the UK, and the Netherlands have fatality rates that are one-fourth of that of the US.
This disparity seems to come from how the United States builds its communities and roads. The US population drives more than any other country in the world. This contributes to a high fatality rate, but even when we discount miles traveled, the death rate is still high. Countries with the best fatality records seem to differ from the United States in the following ways:
- They live more compactly than the United States.
- Their road designs favor vulnerable users like bicyclists and pedestrians.
- They have laws in place to favor these vulnerable users.
New Street Design Could Be The Answer to Car Accident Fatalities in the United States
The Netherlands has become the main innovator of a new street design that promotes safety for all who use it. A “woonerf” – an area in which pedestrians, bikes, and vehicles all share space and speed is limited – has been adopted throughout Europe. In woonerfs, drivers and pedestrians exchange signals to establish right of way.
The concept of “self-explaining roads” has also been developed by the Dutch. These roads incorporate design features that are tailored to their location, such as curves, medians, bike lanes, and roundabouts.
The US falters when it comes to innovative road designs, and instead, we see wide, straight streets everywhere. These designs lead to high speeds that we try to correct with speed bumps and speed traps. These remedies would not be needed if road design was more innovative.
Urban Sprawl Contributes to Dangerous Roads
More and more communities have been built across the United States over the past 45 years. As a result, our country has become more disconnected and auto-dependent. Not only has urban sprawl increased the traffic within communities, but it has also led to more traffic being forced onto the roads that connect communities to major hubs. These busy connections are forced to provide high-speed travel along with access to businesses at the same time.
We Have Your Best Interests in Mind at Colombo Law
With car accidents being so common throughout the state of Ohio, it is important that you are prepared in case of a car accident. Part of being prepared involves knowing who you can turn to for help. That is where we come in. At Colombo Law, we will take the stress of medical bills and legal proceedings off of your hands so you can concentrate on healing. If you have been involved in a car accident in Ohio, contact us today.