Join 3,424 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Iceland 2.7, Dominican Republic 41.7
August 23, 2013 6:14 AM   Subscribe

Roads kill map: an interactive map of worldwide traffic fatalities, including causes of death and levels of enforcement, created by the Pulitzer Center. According to the WHO, road injuries are the 9th cause of death worldwide, with 90% occuring in developing countries where they are expected to rise to the 5th rank, "leapfrogging past HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis", due to growing traffic numbers and lax enforcement. (Via /.)
posted by elgilito (25 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
Roads kill map

Poor map. He never saw it coming.
posted by leotrotsky at 6:27 AM on August 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


Also, based on the dash cam videos I've seen, I'm shocked that Russia isn't that bad.
posted by leotrotsky at 6:29 AM on August 23, 2013


It's hard to draw conclusions, but interesting that all across Europe and the Nordic coutries where drinking and driving laws are strictly enforced (and legal BAC rates are very low) the rates are mostly in the single digits.

Or maybe it's just because petrol is so damned expensive....
posted by three blind mice at 6:32 AM on August 23, 2013


> Or maybe it's just because petrol is so damned expensive....

Iceland has among the world's highest rates of car ownership, so-so public transportation, a built environment that's more New World Anglosphere than Scandinavian, and open range. With few exceptions, their cities and neighborhoods are built around an auto-centric road network.

Modern roads built with the safety and convenience of drivers in mind, combined with low speed limits and a new fleet, might explain the low death rates. Still, it harms livability in a way, because streets serve as conduits rather than as places in their own right.
posted by elmwood at 6:43 AM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'd love to see this normalized against VMT, rather than population.

Europeans drive less, and generally have access to good public transit. It's not completely surprising that they have fewer traffic deaths.

The US has fewer trucks on the road than most of its peers, which undoubtedly helps its (still-lackluster) ranking here. The US ships way more stuff by rail than most other nations.
posted by schmod at 6:45 AM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, based on the dash cam videos I've seen, I'm shocked that Russia isn't that bad.

Having ridden in many so-called "gypsy cabs," unofficial cabs whose sole purpose is to get you to your destination as quickly as possible without paying much mind to little things like traffic lights, stop signs, pedestrians, or other cars, I share your shock.
posted by ORthey at 7:05 AM on August 23, 2013


Believe it or not, this is actually good news.

The best measure of "progress" is that a mechanical device kills someone instead of nature.
posted by Renoroc at 7:13 AM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


The best measure of "progress" is that a mechanical device kills someone instead of nature.

That's the very reasoning behind my steam-powered automatic defenestrating catapult. Progress!
posted by leotrotsky at 7:18 AM on August 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


That's an interesting thought, Renoroc. This is also a reason why it helps to provide more context when reporting such statistics. How are the rates of death due to HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis?


schmod, I think it would help to have both population, plus Vehicle Miles Traveled (total) and VMT (per capita). In some countries where there is a low level of vehicle ownership/ usage, there could still be high fatalities in congested cities due to pedestrian and bicycle congestion along with vehicle congestion.


Regarding the percentage of vehicle deaths in countries where traffic laws are ignored, I imagine people are generally more cautious, knowing that traffic flows are not orderly. I could see there being more issues where people assume everyone will obey traffic laws, but a few people run red lights, make right turns without looking, etc.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:20 AM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Regarding vehicle-related deaths increasing rank vs other sources of fatalities, it would also be helpful to identify how other trends related to driving are changing. I know "distracted driving" is an increasing issue in the United States, with 18 percent of all fatal crashes in 2010 caused by driver distraction, and forty percent of all American teens say they have been in a car when the driver used a cell phone in a way that put people in danger. Policing of distracted driving is not great, and most people realize it's a bad idea, but so many people do it because they think they're doing it safely, or they're communicating something important, or whatever other reason.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:25 AM on August 23, 2013


With few exceptions, their cities and neighborhoods are built around an auto-centric road network.

Very true, and the local person we were traveling with this summer was very quick to criticize bicyclists in the road, usually by saying they were tourists from Northern Europe who didn't know the proper way to ride a bicycle in the road, i.e., get the hell out of the way of the cars.

At the same time, she was very willing to stop and wait for sheep to get out of the road for as long as the sheep thought it necessary, no complaints.
posted by Huck500 at 7:27 AM on August 23, 2013


Regarding vehicle-related deaths increasing rank vs other sources of fatalities, it would also be helpful to identify how other trends related to driving are changing.

I tend to think of driving accidents as being modern day Wicker Man sacrifices to secure our economic prosperity and freedoms. That's why even with increases in drivers and issues like distracted driving the total amount of traffic fatalities has remained remarkable flat for decades neither rising nor falling noticeably. We give our 30 thousand deaths to the car god every year and hope he is appeased.
posted by srboisvert at 7:34 AM on August 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


Iceland has among the world's highest rates of car ownership, so-so public transportation, a built environment that's more New World Anglosphere than Scandinavian, and open range. With few exceptions, their cities and neighborhoods are built around an auto-centric road network.

The UK isn't far behind Iceland in the stats and most of our neighbourhoods aren't built around the car, since at least half our buildings are over 5 decades old. The secret is spending money on improving road safety, including legislation that reduces harm and is policed.

Modern roads built with the safety and convenience of drivers in mind, combined with low speed limits and a new fleet, might explain the low death rates.

Does Iceland have modern roads? Some of the big main roads yes, but the smaller roads seemed pretty patchy in many places in Reykjavik, since they seem to get dug up for work on the heating mains. Outside Reykjavik they are often little more than dirt tracks. The modern fleet certainly seems likely to have benefits along with more appropriate vehicles for terrain and very low traffic density and low speed limits.
posted by biffa at 7:42 AM on August 23, 2013


For people willing to look at traffic fatalities figures vs other data, this paper from the World Bank (from 2003) examines the diverging patterns of road deaths between developing and developed countries.
posted by elgilito at 7:54 AM on August 23, 2013


I'm a little surprised to find Iceland at the top of the chart. My impression from driving around there three weeks this summer is that the average Icelandic driver is sloppy, paying little attention to lane placement and signalling and such. I might be suffering from confirmation bias, though.

A factor that might help the Icelanders is that most of them live in the urban Reykjavik area, meaning that accidents happen at lower speeds and with help close at hand. The ring road around the island is almost deserted, despite being the main road between the smaller towns.

I did spend more time dodging sheep than other traffic while out of the city, as mentioned upthread.
posted by Harald74 at 8:16 AM on August 23, 2013


This is quite unsurprising to anyone who's ever taken a taxi in China.
posted by GoingToShopping at 8:31 AM on August 23, 2013


I can tell you from first hand experience that the Dominican Republic does have ridiculously dangerous traffic. People just do not give a shit there. Red light running is endemic, even in heavy traffic, although getting better as enforcement against that particular behavior increases.

On the few motorways they have, it's not so bad, but everywhere else people just drive whereever they like. Yeah, people generally drive on the right, but there's always a few loons driving on the left on their motos or whatever. Between that and the pedestrian traffic impinging on the road nearly everywhere, it's a wonder more people aren't killed.

Still, it was rather exhilarating riding around on a scooter navigating the crazy. Kind of like skydiving. I'm lucky I didn't lose a leg, though.

But yes, old cars, massive numbers of motorcycles and scooters and pedestrians everywhere is a recipe for disaster.
posted by wierdo at 8:34 AM on August 23, 2013


This might be the right thread about Tesla's claim to be the safest car ever tested. Apparently the Government is not happy with Tesla's boasting. Whatever, it appears to be the safest way to travel by car.
posted by stbalbach at 9:11 AM on August 23, 2013


In the US, there's a lot of variance among the different states.

And ... yeah, stats show something of a blue state/red state pattern. The safest 10:

(District of Columbia 3.97)
Massachusetts 4.79
New York 6.19
Rhode Island 6.27
New Jersey 6.32
Washington 6.79
Illinois 7.22
California 7.27
Minnesota 7.74
Alaska 7.84
Oregon 8.26

And at the bottom:

West Virginia 16.99
South Dakota 17.16
South Carolina 17.47
Kentucky 17.49
Oklahoma 17.76
Alabama 18.01
Montana 19.07
Arkansas 19.27
Mississippi 21.58
Wyoming 27.48

Russia is at 18.6. Mississippi and Wyoming dashcam videos, anybody?
posted by elmwood at 9:14 AM on August 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


> I'd love to see this normalized against VMT, rather than population.

Using VMT/VKT, the US doesn't look so bad in comparison.

http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/2012/tables/12s1104.pdf

For the US in 2009, there was 1.1 deaths per 100,000,000 VMT, or 0.65 deaths per 100,000,000 VKT.

http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2012/sep/28/road-deaths-great-britain-data

In the UK in 2912, Department for Transport statistics claims 41 deaths per billion miles. That's 4.1 deaths per 100,000,000 VMT, or 2.46 deaths per 100,000,000 VKT.

http://www.tc.gc.ca/eng/roadsafety/tp-tp15145-1201.htm#f1 (chart)

According to 2008 stats from Transport Canada, Canada ranks 10th in terms of fatalities per billion vehicle kilometers traveled compared to other OEC member countries; 7.18 deaths/GVKM. The US was 12th; 7.91 deaths/GVKM. Not nearly as vast of a difference as what the Pulitzer Center map alludes to.
posted by elmwood at 9:30 AM on August 23, 2013


This link from the International Transport Forum normalizes versus billion VKT for most OECD countries: [PDF]

The two outliers are both high, the Czech Republic and S. Korea at 18.7 and 16.2 respectively. There appears to be a higher group around 7 to 8 fatalities per billion km travelled including the US, France, Japan, Canada, Israel; then a lower group around 5 fatalities per billion km travelled including the UK, Germany, Australia, Switzerland. The lowest countries are Sweden at 3.2, followed by Norway and Iceland, then the Dutch at 4.3.

Normalizing for miles travelled is only one way to look at the picture; it's appropriate if you want to talk technically about some aspects like safety programs, law enforcement and so on.

But it's not the only way to look at it; it may be that lumberjacks have a safer job than accountants if you normalize per hour operating power saws. It's not like there's just some sort of act of God requiring Americans to drive so much more than Europeans, so under this terrible external burden, the US is doing okay. The US has developed based on the idea that driving long distances is an appropriate use of resources, and while this does have benefits, you shouldn't ignore the costs. It's no comfort to the family of a pedestrian hit by a car that, well, the car driver drove a lot, so the odds were that something was going to happen.

And somehow, when a billion dollars is allocated to build yet another freeway to make it easier to travel even further, no one ever adds in a few thousand more for coffins.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 11:41 AM on August 23, 2013


I'm not sure about this data. I have years of driving experience (20 years total) in two countries: Canada and Guatemala. And I would be very surprised to learn the traffic fatality rate is indeed higher in Canada than Guatemala, as this map states.

Edit: I guess if you factor in things like vehicles-per-person, and average highway speeds [not to mention "other" causes of early death] this could be accurate. Still, surprised.
posted by papafrita at 12:14 PM on August 23, 2013


90% occuring in developing countries where they are expected to rise to the 5th rank, "leapfrogging past HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis", due to growing traffic numbers and lax enforcement.

Considering America's experience with traffic fatalities in the early 1900s, this makes total sense. "Kids playing in the street" wasn't always the near-metaphor that it is now, and in fact when cars started showing up there were tons and tons of child deaths, because the people, children especially, weren't used to those machines being in what had previously been pedestrian space.

Today we have the reversal: people belong on sidewalks, cars belong everywhere else. It's just that developing countries are still going through this transition. (The other problem being that when you have cars first and then build the cities, you end up with way more space for cars...aka the suburban creep).
posted by tooloudinhere at 3:52 PM on August 23, 2013


It's always tricky comparing data from different countries. Just a random anecdote, but the first week I moved to Japan, a friend's uncle had just died from a car accident, after spending a few days in a coma. But because he died more than 24 hours after the accident, it wasn't officially counted as a traffic death. It made me wonder what other odd differences might be skewing statistical comparisons.
posted by Umami Dearest at 1:37 PM on August 24, 2013


elmwood: In the US, there's a lot of variance among the different states.

As I've discussed in a previous "safe places" thread that included vehicular fatalities, rural roads have higher fatalities due to the sheer distance needed to travel to get medical assistance, in terms of both first responders, and then access to a hospital. I can see Wyoming's vehicular fatalities tied to the time it takes to get help out to injured people.

In a city, there's a good chance that someone would see a crash at the moment it happens, or someone involved in the crash can use their cell phone to call and get help on the way almost instantly. Then there's a good chance that there is local service within 5 minutes, if not closer. The hospital is probably another 15 minutes away. In under 30 minutes, someone could crash and get into a hospital. In rural areas, if someone's driving alone and they're knocked unconscious, or there's no cell service, there's a delay in getting professional help out there. Then there's the delay getting to a hospital. Those delays mean increased chance of a wound being fatal, states with scattered populations at a higher risk for death from an otherwise survivable injury.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:46 PM on August 28, 2013


« Older A recent book by David Kaiser tells the story of t...  |  So does any of this matter to ... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments