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HOME > PAST ISSUE > May-June 2002 > Article Detail

FEATURE ARTICLE

Traffic Crashes

Measures to make traffic safer are most effective when they weigh the relative importance of factors such as automotive engineering and driver behavior

Leonard Evans

Figure 10. Drivers . . .Click to Enlarge Image

More than a million people are killed on the world’s roads each year. The total number of traffic deaths is rising as nations depend increasingly on automobiles for transportation, but the number of traffic crash deaths per motor vehicle has declined over time. The pace at which fatality rates are declining varies greatly among different nations. Factors that affect fatality rates include road design, mechanical failure, the use of safety belts and driver behavior. A number of nations, including Canada, Britain, Australia and Sweden, have reduced their annual road fatalities to less than half their peak values, but U.S. fatalities are still within 24 percent of their all-time high. Indeed, since the mid 1960s, the United States has slipped from having the lowest traffic fatality rates in the world to 13th place. A disproportionate emphasis on vehicular factors affecting safety has distracted Americans from the importance of driver behavior.


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