A generation ago, driving on American roads was much safer than in many other countries with lots of open roads (like Canada and Australia). That is not the case anymore. David Leonhardt reports that our vehicle fatality rate is about 40 percent higher than the fatality rates in Canada and Australia.
He says he was unaware of this country’s outlier status until he began to report on the rise of driverless cars. As you might imagine, many people are not convinced that driverless cars will be a good thing for Americans. They aren’t convinced they should trust their lives to a computer.
I understand that fear, but let’s remind ourselves that the current state of driving in America is very dangerous for a number of reasons. First, is the problem of speed. Most other countries have lower speed limits (despite the famous German autobahn). Small differences in speed make a big difference in potential harm. If we install speed cameras, speeding will decline.
A second reason is seatbelts. I was shocked to learn that one in seven American drivers still do not use seatbelts. Who are these people? Every time you see a person get into a car on TV or in the movies, they put on their seatbelt. Most cars beep at you if you don’t put on a seatbelt.
A third reason is age. In other countries, 16-year-olds often are not allowed to drive. As you might imagine, teenagers are responsible for a disproportionate number of accidents.
Drinking before driving is another problem, especially since many people who drink don’t consider “buzzed driving” to actually be drunk driving. And don’t forget that people distracted by cell phones are often as dangerous behind the wheel as people who are drunk.
Add all of these factors up, and you can see why driving in America is more dangerous than driving in many other countries. It’s time to change our bad habits.