USA Number One (for Traffic Deaths)!

USA, USA!  Number one . . . for traffic deaths.  A terrific data-driven story from the New York Times’ Emily Badger and Alicia Parlapieano points out an unfortunate area of American exceptionalism:  traffic deaths.  The US now has a higher death rate from traffic crashes that almost every advanced economy.  And while the rest of the world has been steadily reducing crash deaths, they’ve been going up, especially for vulnerable road users.  The key findings are spelled out in a compelling chart showing the number of traffic deaths per capita for major countries.

There have been some counter arguments that the US death rate isn’t so high if you compute it on a “per mile traveled” basis, rather than per capita, but that misses two key points.  First, America’s excessive auto dependence is what forces Americans to drive long distances; and every mile traveled is an additional risk, both to the person traveling and to other road users.  And second, even after adjusting for miles traveled, the trend is still in the wrong direction:  the US is getting significantly less safe that other industrialized nations, something we’ve pointed out for years at City Observatory.