U.S. Falls Short on Protecting Against Vehicular Deaths

CDC releases data on vehicular deaths in the U.S. and offers solutions that can reduce rates.


The U.S. has more motor vehicle crash deaths than do other high-income countries. Iin fact, the rate in the U.S. is roughly double the nearest countries in line: 10 deaths per 100,000 people, vs 5 to 6 in New Zealand, Canada, and France.

About one-third of deaths are due to drunk driving, and speeding contributes to another third. More than 9,500 of the deaths were due to passengers not using seat belts, car seats, or booster seats. Seat belts saved 12,500 plus lives in 2013, the CDC says, but about half of drivers or passengers who died in crashes weren’t buckled up. By contrast, 99% of drivers and passengers use front seat belts in France, and the average of the 19 countries studied is 94%—vs 87% in the U.S.

Although U.S. crash deaths fell 31% between 2000 and 2013, losing 90 people a day to crashes is still far too high, says the CDC. According to a Vital Signs report, more than 18,000 of the 32,000 lives lost each year could be saved if the U.S. took some safety tips from the other countries, the report says. Enforcing seat belt laws that cover everyone in every seat would be a good step, for instance. As would redefining blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limits—all the comparison countries use BAC levels at 0.02% to 0.05%, vs 0.08% in the U.S., Canada, and the United Kingdom. The report also urges using advanced engineering and technology, such as ignition interlocks for people convicted of drunk driving.

In the meantime, the CDC says, health care providers can help by reminding patients about using a seat belt on every trip, no matter how short; counseling parents on age- and size-appropriate seats for children; talking to patients about the dangers of impaired driving and “distracted” driving (eg, using cell phones or texting); and giving parents and caregivers of teens resources on safe teen driving.

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