A few fleeting thoughts about these maps:
- I notice that the two states in which I lived the longest, Washington and Minnesota, are among the safest. Coincidence? I think not.
- I have driven across North Dakota and Montana and Idaho. Those bloody dark colors do not lie, although they and Wyoming are also among the more thinly populated states.
- What’s going on in the deep South? Those are places I’ve rarely visited, again suggesting the importance of my talismanic presence.
- Of course, everyone in Europe must be better drivers than most Americans. Or, possibly, they are sensible and don’t drive as much.
- I am intrigued by the mysterious vast empty space in the North Sea. Is it possible that a hidden land mass lurks somewhere in the open ocean there?
- Avoid Wyoming at all costs.
I once drove up to Wyoming from Denver for a math conference in Laramie. The car rental agencies at the Denver airport didn’t have a lot to pick from, so I ended up driving I-25 in a big sedan the size of a battleship. Safety, right? Actually, most of the other vehicles were gigantic, too. Lots of big cars and truck in Colorado and Wyoming! But that was years ago. Maybe they’ve downsized since then. Maybe not.
The Adriatic Sea is also intriguing with an eastern coastline that seems to offer many possibilities. Sweden has a hitherto-unnoticed western coastline with the North Sea. And there’s an enormous previously-unknown glacier or inland sea in the Alps. 🤔
Wyoming has enormously long stretches of highway with very little traffic, high speeds and open range. A recipe for hitting a cow at 80MPH in the middle of the night. (One time we stupidly miscalculated a trip through that part of the country during Sturgis; we originally intended to stay in Cody, as we had been travelling eastward from Yellowstone NP. We ended up driving to Thermopolis (at 3AM!) before finding a place to stay. Long roads + fatigue + zero traffic made it a scary drive. )
It also has very few people so this is mostly an effect of edge-cases. a handful of traffic deaths can greatly shift the numbers per million when you only have a population of half a million. 160/million = 80 people died in traffic accidents.
Utah’s an unusual patch of green. Mormon exceptionalism?
consciousness razor says
There are much more extensive public transportation systems in the green and yellow areas generally. (Even more so in the case of Europe.) And in, say, Nevada or Utah or Colorado, the population is heavily concentrated in a couple of large cities and practically empty elsewhere. Similar to Minnesota, where most are in the Minneapolis area, which has a range of public transportation options — the rest of the state is so sparsely populated it hardly makes a difference.
In most of the reddish and dark gray areas of the South, Midwest, and Rocky Mountain states, there are still a sizeable number of people moving around. It’s not like we’re in the middle of a desert or mountains or something, but people are generally more spread out in smaller cities and towns. It’s pretty normal to be driving much longer distances to get to the next interesting place (for your job, to go shopping, for recreation, or whatever it may be). So we’re using roads more, because we have few if any other options — not even buses for the most part, although those would be safer.
Ørjan Hoem says
Like it says on the map, it depicts the European Union, not Europe. That’s why it doesn’t include Norway, Iceland, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, etc.
Rich Woods says
I’m very pleased to see that the UK has registered zero road deaths now that we’ve left the evil clutches of the EUSSR. Jacob Rees-Mogg (the Honourable Member of Parliament for the 18th Century) was tasked by our revered leader with identifying the advantages and opportunities of Brexit last February, and it seems that he has at last found one. All hail the true-blue Great British EU-free non-killing Great British roads! Hail! Hail!
PZ Myers says
Another factor in those deadly states is that if you do get in an accident somewhere in a long empty stretch, you’re a long way from a hospital, which may increase lethality.
I’ve driven through Wyoming multiple times. We always scheduled our trips so we were rolling through the big empty in daylight.
Pierce R. Butler says
Is it possible that a hidden land mass lurks somewhere in the open ocean there?
As long as anyone has collected the statistics, traffic fatalities have stayed at zero across Atlantis.
consciousness razor says
That’s better at explaining some places like Montana, Wyoming, and maybe the western parts of the Dakotas and Nebraska.
But you’re not generally not that far (i.e., not middle-of-nowhere empty for dozens of miles) from some kind of hospital in the remainder of the South and Midwest. Outside of the larger cities, they don’t generally have the kinds of advanced equipment, specialists, resources etc. that you’d find in some hospitals, but they can at least treat injuries from car accidents. (Presumably, they get more practice with it too.) That said, I’m sure it doesn’t help even if you or the ambulance have to travel a “mere” 10-20 miles (as opposed to 50-60 or whatever) to and from the site of an accident.
James Fehlinger says
Don’t tell me where I can take my guns, and don’t tell me how
fast I can drive my pickup!
There’s a novel I read a few years ago after seeing a review
of it in the NY Times. It’s a dystopian near-ish future in which
the Feds attempted to ban fossil fuels, precipitating a new
It also smacks a bit of a revenge fantasy — the author has
Egyptian roots, and in the novel there’s a new polity in the
Middle East called the “Bouazizi Empire” that’s keeping the chaos
going in the erstwhile U.S. by providing illicit aid (and terrorist
training) to the rebels.
The vehicles still (legitimately) in use are (apparently)
disparagingly referred to as “tik-toks”, which makes them
sound considerably less cool than Teslas. I can’t remember
whether they’re supposed to be electric, or literally
‘American War,’ by Omar El Akkad
June 29, 2017
What might happen if a divided United States turned its weapons
on its own people? That’s the unsettling premise of Omar El Akkad’s
debut novel, “American War.”
Near the start of this frightening and heartbreaking book, El Akkad
explicitly summarizes the novel’s vision of the future. The
Second American Civil War lasted from 2074 to 2093, fought between
the Union and the secessionist states of Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia
and South Carolina. (Originally an ally, Texas was annexed by Mexico.)
The primary cause of the conflict was the Sustainable Future Act,
prohibiting the use of fossil fuels anywhere in the U.S. . . .
EVEN BROKEN HISTORY IS HISTORY
BY JENN STROUD ROSSMANN
. . .
The titular American War is between Blues and Reds — nominally, North and South —
and began, we’re told, when the South refused to abide by energy restrictions
enacted in response to accelerating climate change. (The reader who studies the
novel’s 2075 maps will see no trace of Cape Cod or Long Island, no New Orleans
or Florida — “the edges of the land shaved off” by water.) Proud citizens of the
“Free South” are once and future Rebels: “A man caught using fossil fuel in these
parts was still an outlaw,” and “It said something to own a vehicle that still
ran on prohibition fuel; it spoke not only of accumulated wealth, but of connections,
of status.” . . .
When it comes to road vehicles, I think a big part of it is that America simply drives more. In Europe, it’s not unusual for people to not have driver’s licenses at all.
I wonder how these maps would look if we had better resolution.
I do wonder what role age plays in this. To my knowledge, nowhere in the EU are driver’s licenses issued before 18 years of age, whereas AFAIK in some US states 14 years old children are allowed to drive a car. And I have experienced traffic both in the USA (Idaho, Utah, California) and the EU (CZ, DE), and in my opinion, people in the EU are, on average, much safer drivers. For example, one sees rarely, if ever, someone take a turn without signaling lights in the EU, whereas it was a common occurrence in the USA.
Car size might also play a role – in the USA people drive bigger and stronger cars on average, which might give them a false sense of security.
I thought it might correlate to seat belt usage, but from the stats I could find, it doesn’t particularly. Massachusetts has one of the lowest usage rates in the country. In fact, Mass has one of the highest rates of motor vehicle crashes, but one of the lowest rates of fatal crashes. I’ve attributed this to the highways being so crowded that you frequently can’t get up to a speed high enough to kill you — probably not true.
As Rich Woods says, data are from EU: however, looking at wiki here
gives a cross reference from UK to elsewhere: e.g. both UK and Ireland have 2.9 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants per year, and Ireland is on PZ’s map.
Charly @13: Me, I put the EU – US difference on roundabouts. Dig around for the story on Carmel, Indiana (not 100% seriously)
consciousness razor says
Exactly the right question.
It’s basically the same issue with our talk of “red states” and “blue states,” when really you can see at the county level that things are more complicated (but for reasons that are comprehensible, mainly boiling down to population density). When you look at it at the scale of entire states and try to reason about that, it doesn’t make much sense, and that’s because you were tossing out relevant data (or not collecting it) about the distribution at much smaller scales.
Quality of roads is another possible factor: How well they are built, maintained, etc.
In the States, as far as I can now recall, road-building is usually a (relatively) local affair, presumably with somewhat varying standards and sometimes-questionable inspection, built by the lowest bidder, then maintained on a minuscule budget.
Here in France the roads seem to be usually in immaculate condition, built to national(? EU?) standards. Whilst Ireland is still playing catch-up (or at least was when I lived there), EU funding has greatly improved the quality of the roads (and other infrastructure) there. And presumably so on throughout the EU.
blf: The nationales and autoroutes are great. Some of the départementales can be pretty rough.
But the weather is also much more temperate. Not as much freeze-thaw except in the mountains. And a lot fewer heavy trucks.
That chunk bitten out of Ireland us upsetting, we’ll have to fix that.
Also the lack of Norway makes Denmark uncomfortable.
I don’t think we can do a single cause and effect comparison. There’s so many differences within the US without even factoring Europe. Things like driving age, drinking age, enforcement of laws, big empty roads, road conditions, distance to medical help, cost of gas, etc. Americans drive more so we have more deaths. What I’d like to see is a map breaking it down into deaths per million miles driven instead of deaths per million people.
Those black states probably have next to none public transport.
astringer’s Wikipedia page in reply #15 gives deaths per billion vehicle km for several developed countries, which comes from this OECD report (which has figure for 1990, 2000, 2010 and 2016, so you can see improvements – or not): https://www.itf-oecd.org/sites/default/files/docs/irtad-road-safety-annual-report-2018_2.pdf
In 2016, the Czech Republic was 11.5 – worse than the USA at 7.3, and Belgium was also 7.3. The (now) non-EU European countries do best – UK, Switzerland and Norway, all under 3.4 (UK’s figure is actually 2010). The big EU countries are Germany at 4.2, and France at 5.8.
Back in 1990, the USA was one of the best countries, per km, but others have overtaken it. Whether that’s because the USA used to be a leader in safety regulation, but the EU overtook it, or a difference in population attitude, I suppose no-one can say.
Halcyon Dayz, FCD says
Short answer: badly designed infrastructure based on outdated car-centric concepts.
And another thing probably responsible for the improved statistics – better trauma treatment. Again, it’s possible the USA was a leader in 1990 in that.
@ethicsgradient, that is quite an interesting report. I glanced at several of the graphs in there and it seems that whilst things here in EU got better between 2010-2016, in the USA it got worse instead. Except for the one metric you mentioned, in every other metric the USA fares worse than the Czech republic. As in, an increase in the number of dead people in accidents as a percentage of the population, of all ages, pedestrians and drivers and cyclists alike in this period.
I think that in CZ there are more people dead per distance traveled because the Czech Republic is pretty cramped, full of obscure and difficult to navigate roads, often in bad condition, and very few highways. Most people drive only short commutes, or occasionaly.
As few above stated, definitely deaths per million and deaths per million kilometres/miles will tell different story.
In Europe you rarely do trips over 6-10 hours and a lot of those trips can be done by train so average european drives way less kilometres than average american drives miles.
Here you have a bit more detailed infographics, have fun with polish (numbers are the same everywhere)
Definitely EU for years invests a lot into infrastructure and traffic rules. For example narrower streets cause people to drive slower, lower speed limits, better lights on pedestrian crossings, more barriers, more interchanges in crossroads that are designed to limit the amount of colliding traffic.
This really works.
25 years ago, before Poland got into EU, there was around 1mln cars in Poland and 7k deaths per year. Now it’s about 2 mln cars and around 3k deaths.
Just last year a new law was passed, that pedestrians on the “zebra” has right of way ALWAYS.
And just in one year number of dead pedestrians dropped 39% and wounded dropped 35%.
Main reason is that now drivers whenever they see a pedestrian crossing, start ACTIVELY looking for pedestrians and that’s why they notice them.
Human perception of the world is deeply flawed and unless we actively look for something we are likely to miss it.
So maybe lower age of US drivers, more miles or fatigue of drivers plays a role, but infrastructure and rules really work
In the case of the UK considerable spend on road safety campaigns for years. When I was a Road Safety Officer back in the 80s we ran summer and Chrismas drink driving campaigns, back to school autumn campaigns about getting to school safely in the dark, child seat campaigns (this was before it was illegal to have a child in a car without an appropriate child car seat), rear seat belt use campaigns (again before the use of rear seat belts was made compulsory), along with one offs usually linked to one of the other campaigns. The one offs might be, say the remains of a car which looked like it had been crushed (it had, under an artic) on the city square, with the baby car seat that had protected the baby who didn’t have a scratch despite the mangled wreckage -the mother wasn’t so lucky but still survived or the display with the photographs of the car in which two couples who were recently retired, life long friends going on holiday, husbands in the front wearing their seatbelts, wives in the back not wearing seatbelts, they didn’t get their holiday because there was a head on collision and as the wives were thrown forward through the windscreen they each broke their husbands neck and killed him, both wives survived.
There was also a lot of money spent on research into what made roads safe, although for too many years that was focused on what made roads safe for car drivers and passengers which often didn’t make the roads safer for cyclists or pedestrians. In addition there was reserch into what happened to cars in accidents so legally enforceable vehicle standards could be improved. Oh and of course the MOT, a road worthniness test each car over three years old has to pass to continue to be on the road.
TL;DR The UK along with the rest of Europe put a lot of work into getting the road death figures down, and continues to do so.
Leo Buzalsky says
Regarding Wyoming, I don’t have the link handy, but what I have heard is a big problem is I-80 in the winter. It’s a major semitruck route and so they’ll have huge pile-ups from those semitrucks crashing in winter storms.
SC (Salty Current) says
PaulBC @ #4:
Jazzlet@27, Oh yeah, the MOT, I’d forgotten completely about that (having not bothered to own a car for about two decades now, albeit I am still licensed to drive). That last car I owned passed its MOT(s?) in the UK, but failed the then-new (and at the time, more comprehensive than the UK) version in Ireland. Some relatively trivial issue, no problem to fix, but I was impressed with both the thoroughness and professionalism.
There was nothing at all in California at that time (dunno about now), nor, I presume, elsewhere in the States (then (as far as I can recall), and I presume, now). At the time I lived in California, emissions tests were just being introduced. Those emissions tests should, albeit indirectly, improve the “fleet”, albeit perhaps not too much on a crash-safety level.
I ended my car ownership before the MOT-equivalent was due here in France (contrôle technique), so I cannot compare from my experiences. Some admittedly quick Generalissimo Google™ suggests the EU is trying to introduce uniform (minimum?), possibly annual, inspections.
Lends credence to quality of healthcare as a factor.
The 10 black states in the car death map:
Tennessee ranks 23rd in health care quality
New Mexico 24
South Carolina 26
Another factor is city design. In Europe and a few big cities, people can get key groceries without driving. In most of the US, especially suburbs, such designs are illegal, per zoning laws.
US city planners say “I’d rather die than have a store within walking distance”.
You can get a drivers license at 16, but farm kids usually learn to drive various farm vehicles at about 12-13 as long as they aren’t out on public roads. I was driving long before I took drivers education in high school. ( but that’s out in the country, where there is nothing to hit but fence posts and cattle, and no police to ticket you).
@ 17 blf
Here in France the roads seem to be usually in immaculate condition, built to national(? EU?) standards.
Nonsense. Once when cycling in France, just outside Chantilly, IIRC, I saw a sign saying ” Attention, Nid de Poule”. About twenty minutes diligent work with my E/F Larousse suggested a pot hole.
Of course here in Canada some cities have pothole of the week competitions on the radio in the spring.
@ 26 Gorzki
This is partially Smeed’s Law.
Yeah, you virtually never hear of an RTC* caused by a vehicle fault here, and if you calim “the brakes just failed” as justification for an injury RTC there’ll be a police mechanic taking your car apart to check.
The change to stop calling these incidents Road Traffic Accidents and start calling them Road Traffic Collisions has also had a positive impact, traffic police will want to know why you crashed, especially if you hurt someone, whereas before they did tend to have an “oh well, accidents will happen” attitude. Changing the law so you can get sent to prison for years for killing someone with your vehicle undoubtedly helped as, hit-and-runs aside, they are relatively easy crimes to solve helping forces meet their targets.
jrkrideau@34, As you yourself quoted, I said “usually“. What isabout that qualification ? For feck’s sake, by your own account, there was a sign warning of the problem !
Feck off, Putin-addled troll.
Minnesota does spend a huge amount on road maintenance and repair, and also has to contend with severe winter weather. We don’t get as many blizzard type storms, those tend to be associated with the western prairie states.
I did notice that several of the states with the highest deaths per capita are also states where the Interstate and highway speed limits are highest. You are more likely to survive a crash at lower speeds, and more likely to die on impact at speeds above 80 mph.
I have driven a lot in Spain — literally tens of thousands of miles, in all kinds of areas — urban, suburban, rural. And I can attest that you hardly ever see any accidents in Spain. I’ve seen only a handful in all of that driving.
SC (Salty Current) says
NBC (2021) – “Black people are more likely to die in traffic accidents. Covid made it worse.”:
leovigild@39, That reminds me of a sortof-hilarious story from when I was living in Ireland (very rainy place). I was seconded to a facility in Sanford (California), and the Irish / European travel-staff, not realising there’s a long distance between Sanford and San Francisco, booked me into accommodation in SF (in the Pacific Heights area, so I didn’t complain!). But it did mean an hour(?)’s drive to the Sanford facility. One day it was raining cats, cows, and small whales, so I was driving very carefully, and noticed multiple things, including (but not limited to): Other people were going much faster, and lots of accidents / crashed-cars by the side of the road.
However, “European” drivers can also be eejits: One example, from a few years earlier, on the Isle of Sky. A single-track road (i.e., one lane, not one lane in each direction, just one lane, with occasional places to pull over so traffic could pass). And a steep hill. Rule is the car going uphill has priority, as it’s very difficult to reverse downhill. Near the top of the hill, me climbing, another car appears and simply wouldn’t budge (despite there being a pull-over not too far behind them, further up the hill). Eventually, I gave in and VERY carefully reversed back down to the lower pull-over, with the fecking eejits not too far “behind” me all the way down (very little room to maneuver).
blf@41 I assume you mean “Stanford” unless I’m really confused.
The other thing about the SF Bay Area is that it does not rain at all for about half the year (even without the longterm drought conditions we’re experiencing now) so the first rain of the season brings traffic to a screeching halt. I don’t know if people forget how to drive in rain or it’s just that every year brings in a bunch of people unused to driving in rain. Combine that with a freeway like I-280, which is how you’d probably get between SF and Stanford, and there’s a serious hazard. You may be flying along at 75 miles an hour and run into stopped traffic over a hill or around a curve. (Though it’s my favorite freeway in good weather and light traffic. Very scenic and with roadside novelties like the Flintstone house and the gnomelike statue of Junipero Serra).
You said you lived in Santa Cruz, so maybe you’ve also had the joy of driving over Highway 17. That’s a piece of cake if you actually follow the speed recommendations around curves. Unfortunately, the cars behind you and the ones passing you don’t want to do that. That was my commute for a year or two and I eventually got comfortable with it.
PaulBC@41, Yes, my bad, I meant Standford.
And yes, it was I-280. And yes, I have driven Highway 17 many times; as you say, if you stick to the limits (and observe careful inter-car distancing), it’s Ok, but that (at that time, and I presume still now) made you an obvious outlier.
I’ve also driven Highway 1 — LA↔SF, albeit never in one journey — (and bicycled LA→SF) which is similar to Highway 17: Stick to the limits, maintain good inter-car distancing, and be alert and prepared for anomalies (and check beforehand for landsides, etc.!) Again, not a problem, except you can be an outlier, with some very scary overtaking by eejits on blind curves.
Somewhat counterintuitively to many, big trucks and 4x4s are more dangerous than well designed normal cars, Although unfortunately their numbers are growing in uk and Europe, they are not as predominant as in the US especially in those southern states.
Don’t know about the other states, but… it’s ridiculously easy to get a TN driver’s license. Pass a stupidly simple multiple choice test, then drive 5 minutes around the block without hitting anything, and you’re done.
Of course there’s a wreck on the part of 11E that I have to drive on pretty much every day.
The Silent Epidemic of Pedestrian Deaths in America in Current Affairs will get you started. (I’m assuming they’ll be counted as car-related fatalities.)
Numbers of pedestrians killed per year for many countries here: https://w3.unece.org/PXWeb/en/Table?IndicatorCode=59
Not per capita, but you can work out a rough ratio from knowing rough populations; the USA has about 5 times the population of the UK or France; USA 2019 deaths 6205, UK 487, France 468, the USA is about 2.5 times the rate of those 2. Canada was 314, and is about a ninth of the US population, so about US is about 2.2 times Canada. The US numbers have gone up considerably in recent years; other countries are flatter.
Driver inattention – eg using a cellphone – has been suggested as a cause of recent increase in accidents.
This correlation may be meaningless, but I suspect the states with the most traffic fatalities are also the states with the largest proportion of large, four-wheel-drive vehicles, particularly pickup trucks. It’s possible you’re safer inside such a tank, but lots of luck to anyone you collide with.
Nope, they are more dangerous even I& you’re inside.