May 25, 2011

Death toll on North American roads dramatically down

By Ai Lung Nguyen - May 2011.

CARS - Compared to decades ago the number of people who die in car accidents have dropped dramatically.

Let us start in Canada, where the death toll is at its lowest level since the Canadian government began keeping statistics more than 45 years ago.

The latest Transport Canada statistics show the number of people who died in traffic collisions declined 8.7%, to 2,209 deaths in 2009 compared to 2008. That compares dramatically to 6,706 deaths in 1973 and similar years.

Note that Canada's population has also gone up during this period of time, from 22,494,000 in 1973 to 33,894,000 in 2009. So despite the growth in population, road deaths are still down per capita. From 1 in 3,354 in 1973 down to 1 in 15,344 in 2009. That is a per capita decrease of approx. 78.2%.

Since the Canadian government started compiling road collision data in 1965, 2009 marks the fourth consecutive year where fatalities have declined despite more licensed drivers and vehicles on the road. From 1999 to 2009 annual road fatalities have dropped 26%.

In the United States we see a similar trend. Fatalities have dropped to historical lows, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Both governments attribute the lower death tolls to safer vehicles, stronger laws, stricter enforcemen, public-awareness campaigns about drinking and driving, wearing a seat belt, avoiding distractions (ie. cell phone use, etc).

We have to remember that back in 1973 not many people wore seat belts. Only after decades of public awareness campaigns do the majority of people now wear seat belts. The trick now is whether campaigns against drunk driving and cell phones will smarten people up.

We should note that one person dies on a Canadian road every 4 hours.

In the USA its 1 person every 16 minutes (remember the USA has 9 times the population of Canada).

US Car Accident Deaths / Year
2000 41,945
2001 42,196
2002 43,005
2003 42,643
2004 42,836
2005 43,443
2006 42,642
2007 41,059
2008 37,261
2009 33,808
2010 32,708

The leading causes of car accidents are:

Drunk Driving
Reckless Behaviour

Personal Note: Speaking as someone who travels a lot, its nice to know that car accident fatalities are dropping significantly. I think it makes a difference in your psyche when you get in a car with a driver whom you quickly realize is a HORRIBLE driver. Your knuckles go white with fear and you keep wondering when they are going to have an accident.

It makes me wonder if the government should track "problem drivers" and either revoke their licenses or force them to take remedial driving lessons until they learn how to drive properly.

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