car crashApparently, car crash deaths on the roads of America remain higher than just about every other high-income country in the world.  And, unfortunately, this is still true despite a fall in car crash deaths by more than one-third over the past 14 years.

To put things into perspective, roughly 90 Americans die in car crashes every day. This is the highest roadway death rate among 20 total countries examined by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Car crash deaths, in the United States, fell by more than 30 percent between 2000 and 2013 but in other countries, the same statistic fell, on average, by a whopping 56 percent over the same time period.  Spain had the greatest crash death reduction rate—of 75 percent—while the United States, of course, had the smallest reduction in crash-related death rate.

“It is important to compare us not to our past but to our potential. Seeing that other high-income countries are doing better, we know we can do better, too,” comments CDC National Center for Injury Prevention and Control director Dr. Debra Houry. In a CDC news release, she goes on to say, “People of our nation deserve better and safer transport.”

In the report, the CDC comments that alcohol and not using seat belts figured heavily into this data and this suggests that progress to much lower rates should be not only possible, but achievable.

“We know what works to prevent crashes, injuries and deaths,” explains Erin Sauber-Schatz, who is the transportation safety team lead at the CDC’s Center for Injury Prevention.  She also notes that by simply increasing seat belt use (to 100 percent) we could save up to 3,000 lives a year; eliminating alcohol-impaired driving could save as many as 10,000 lives, annually.  This could save, in total then, more than 24,000 lives in the United States and, in addition, approximately $281 million in direct medical costs related to these accidents.

Dr. Guoha Li, of the Center for Epidemiology and Prevention at Columbia University, suggests that perhaps these statistics reflect that Americans probably drive more miles and for longer periods then drivers in other countries.

And Sauber-Schatz agrees this could be a contribution. She says, “The more you’re on the road, the more you’re exposed to the potential for a crash.”