The Geography of Road Danger

Mortality caused by Road Traffic Injury by Country

This color-coded traffic fatality chart is via ChartsBin. Iraq is one country that leaps out, and I’m not sure what part the road danger there is due to absence of government structure, bad infrastructure, or whether war/insurgency-related deaths (e.g., IEDs) are coded as traffic fatalities. Not to mention, from accounts I’ve seen, the idea that people often have to drive in a riskier fashion to simply avoid becoming the target of danger. Then there’s other, difficult to quantify ideas, such as that people living in a war environment might develop a more fatalistic view toward life.

Angola scores high too; I imagine it’s an offset of the country’s oil industry — more people with cars suddenly hitting the road.

This is of course per 100,000 population, which doesn’t account for the amount of exposure; given the average number of miles driven in the U.S. versus, say, Sierra Leone, really makes the statistics stand out. But there’s another overwhelming difference between the typical African country and the U.S., as CUNY’s Greg Chen points out:

One striking feature of road traffic crashes and injuries in Africa is its high involvement of, and impact on, the most vulnerable road users, the pedestrian and the passengers in public transportations, such as buses and minibuses. The literature review shows that pedestrian crashes account for more than 40 percent of crashes in most of Africa countries. For example, pedestrians accounted for 55% of road traffic deaths in Mozambique between 1993 and 2000 (Romao et al, 2003). Pedestrians account for 46% of road traffic deaths in Ghana between 1994 and 1998 (Afukaar et al, 2003). Pedestrian and passenger crashes represented 80% of all road traffic deaths in Kenya in 1990 (Odero et al, 2003).

And there’s another way to think about the statistics on a per 100,000 level; one might read the low per population rate in a country like Denmark not simply as the result of it being a small country, and hence fewer miles to traverse, but that people there simply don’t have to drive as much. Exposure, after all, is one ‘five Es” of traffic safety, along with education, enforcement, engineering, emergency response.

(thanks Peter)

This entry was posted on Friday, November 6th, 2009 at 3:01 pm and is filed under Roads, Traffic safety. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

17 Responses to “The Geography of Road Danger”

  1. chris Hutt Says:

    It’s Iran (Persia) that leaps out, not Iraq. I hope the US government have better luck with geography.

  2. chris Hutt Says:

    What we see in developing countries where cars are still in the process of being introduced to a population as yet unadapted to them is something of how things were in those relatively safe developed countries like the US and UK back in the early days of mass car ownership.

    Until about 1965 most people killed by motor vehicles in the UK were pedestrians or cyclists rather than car occupants. Children and elderly people were particularly likely to be victims of conflict with motor vehicles. So it has always been the most vulnerable who bear the brunt of the pain of mass motorisation.

  3. Evan Says:

    Half of all crash victims are vulnerable road users such as pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcyclists – WHO Fact

  4. Tony Toews Says:

    Why such a huge difference between US and Canada? I thought we would’ve been much closer than dboule in the US. We’re very similar in so many respects I find this rather puzzling.

    After all I’ve been in Seattle traffic jams. Traffic moves real, real slow in those so I would’ve suspected a lower rate because of those.

  5. Adam Says:

    I have a feeling the fatality rate here in South Korea may be about to go up:

  6. Biks Says:

    Some friends visited Uganda — which an fact does looks pretty good on the map — in the nineties and told me of a strange traffic law that forbids to touch the victims of an accident until police has investigated what happened. They probably considered it more important to find the culprit than to help the victims.

    One of my friends just became a doctor and said she really wouldn’t know what to do in case of witnessing an accident which fortunatly didn’t happen.

  7. Just Brooklyn Says:

    The problem in Iran is motorcycles. Poor families use them instead of a sedan. One child on the gas tank, the father driving, the mother behind him, and another child in the back. No one wears a helmet.

  8. j Says:

    Another legal “problem” in some countries is pedestrian right-of-way laws. In the USSR cars had right-of-way at crosswalks. Wide streets in many cities made crossing the street rather treacherous. I assume this has not changed in post-Soviet times, and there are a lot more cars now.

  9. Catherine Says:

    Yep, Iran not Iraq is what leaps out at me (not like Iraq is green or anything, but still, some basic geography would be appreciated).

    And @ Just Brooklyn, it could be the motorbikes/motorcycles….except the use you describe is exceedingly common in many other countries (from my personal experience, Vietnam and India stand out). Could it be the heavy use of motorbikes PLUS a heavier use of cars than in places like Vietnam and India? Interesting thought.

  10. Fuchsia Gormenghast Says:

    Re: Tony Toews, #4

    Having lived in Canada, I would say that it’s because Canadians drive more carefully and courteously than Americans. For example, they drive with their lights on at all times. And, stereotypes in this case being pretty close to the mark, Canadians in general are more polite, more restrained, less aggressive, and more timid than the average American.

  11. Clarence Says:

    Having been there, doesn’t surprise me that Australia and Canada score well, but I have heard that India is among the worst, but seems to fare better than I expected.

    I remember Bogota was a pretty dangerous place to be a pedestrian.

  12. Omri Says:

    I noticed that Turkey comes out safer than the US, and discussed it with a Turkish coworker. The usual jokes about suicidal Turkish drivers not-withstanding, it is true that drivers in Turkey will often take risks that are unacceptable in the US. And the Turks are far more fond of 2-wheelers. And yet their rates are lower.

    Well, Turks don’t drive drunk. And the difference in casualty rates is a stark contrast.

  13. Patrick Mc Says:

    Never heard of exposure as one of the 5 E’s, but I suppose that there may be multiple concepts with the same name.

    I’ve always heard the 5 E’s as Engineering, Enforcement, Education, Encouragement, & Evaluation (with Environment and Equity sometimes added in).

    Regardless, exposure is a particular challenge for bike/ped safety research, with little understanding of crash frequency by mile or the impact on ridership of physical or programmatic improvements.

  14. Alger Says:

    One serious problem with this map. The denominator/normalization is population, but the universe shouldn’t be determined by the number of potential targets since everyone is not exposed to the same degree because the real degree of risk is determined by the number of vehicles.
    A more appropriate index would be the number of fatalities to the number of motor vehicle drivers. Even better would be miles traveled, but that is difficult data to obtain.

  15. Richard Says:

    Canada is probably lower due to higher usage of transit, cycling and walking. In general, our cities, while in need of improvement, are more walking and cycling friendly.

    I expect that India is better than expected because most of the population lives in rural areas where there are very few cars. I expect that the rates in the cities are pretty bad.

  16. Cap'n Transit Says:

    Okay, what’s up with Slovakia? Is it a pedestrian paradise or just an error in the data? Any idea where the raw data is, anyway?

  17. David Hembrow Says:

    Chris Hutt Says: “Until about 1965 most people killed by motor vehicles in the UK were pedestrians or cyclists rather than car occupants. […] So it has always been the most vulnerable who bear the brunt of the pain of mass motorisation.”

    Evan Says: “Half of all crash victims are vulnerable road users […] WHO Fact”

    Both absolutely right, though it doesn’t have to be this way. It’s one of the reasons why I find it truly remarkable that the Netherlands has the world’s safest roads.

    Britain achieved its good overall road safety record by removing the vulnerable. The Netherlands achieved its results while increasing the numbers of vulnerable road users.

    World-wide you see the same story. Even here. There are very few deaths on the road which don’t involve a motor vehicle. Keep people away from cars and they’re safer.

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