Road deaths: US rates higher than Europe, lower than Middle East, Africa

September 18, 2017
Contact: Bernie DeGroat

ANN ARBOR—The contribution of road deaths to all deaths in the United States doesn’t even crack the top 100 among all nations worldwide, say University of Michigan researchers.

Fatalities from road crashes as a percentage of fatalities from all causes of death is 1.3 percent in the U.S.—less than the world’s rate of 2.4 percent.

In a new report designed to place road fatalities in a broader public health context globally, Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle of the U-M Transportation Research Institute found that the U.S. ranks 129th out of 183 countries on this measure.

Using data from the World Health Organization from 2015, Sivak and Schoettle compared deaths from traffic crashes with fatalities from stroke, cancer and heart disease.

They found that the number of fatalities from road crashes is about a quarter (26.5 percent) of fatalities from strokes. The corresponding percentages for cancer and heart disease are 5.8 percent and 7.3 percent, respectively.

Worldwide, the rates are 21.5 percent for stroke, 15.4 percent for cancer and 15.3 percent for heart disease.

In their analysis, the researchers found 14 countries in which the number of fatalities exceed those for at least one of the other three leading causes of death. Most of these cases were found in sub-Saharan Africa and two were in Middle East nations.

In several countries in the Middle East, fatalities from road crashes constitute the largest percentage of deaths from all causes—claiming seven of the top eight spots. Oman (9.4 percent), Qatar (8.6 percent) and Saudi Arabia (8.1 percent) lead the way.

Africa also ranked high on this measure, with nine African countries among the top 20.

On the other end of the scale, several European and Pacific Island nations have the lowest fatalities from road crashes as a percentage of all fatalities: Sweden, the United Kingdom and Micronesia at 0.3 percent; and Norway, Spain, the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark and Kiribati at 0.4 percent.


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