US death rates from motor vehicle crashes rates are the highest among 29 upper-income countries, according to a government study that adds to the country’s poor public-health record among developed nations.
Annual US fatalities from car, truck and motorcycle collisions were 11.1 per 100,000 people in 2019, researchers from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said, 2.3 times higher than the average in wealthy countries. While 21 other countries saw a decrease in crash-related mortality from 2015 to 2019, the pace of US deaths remained the same.
Motor-vehicle deaths are another black mark on public health measures in the US, which ranks 60th in life expectancy worldwide despite its wealth. A recent report from a bipartisan group of national health experts called for greater public health representation in the top levels of the administration and reliable funding for state and local health departments to improve responses to health crises, like the Covid-19 pandemic.
Only Chile came close to the US in 2019 motor vehicle deaths, with a rate of 10.5 per 100,000 population. Lowest among the countries was Norway, with a rate of 2 deaths per 100,000.
Countries including Australia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain, and Sweden, have implemented measures — focusing on roads, road users, vehicles, speeds, and post-crash care — that making driving safer for all, the researchers said. “Other high-income countries have demonstrated that substantial reductions in crash deaths can be achieved,” they said in the study.
The US could save approximately 20,517 lives and $280.5 million in overall medical costs annually if it were to lower death rates to 4.8 per 100,000, the average among other high-income countries surveyed in the study from CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. However, preliminary data hint that US motor vehicle-related deaths, which include pedestrians, bicyclists and others, are still rising, with early estimates for 2021 increasing to almost 43,000 in 2021 from 36,355 in 2019.
Life expectancy at birth in the US in 2020 was 77 years, a drop of 1.8 years from 2019 that mainly occurred as a result of the pandemic, according to findings from the CDC. Other areas in which the US lags much of the developed world include opioid-related deaths and firearm-related fatalities.
Photo: Vehicles on Highway 101 in San Francisco/Bloomberg
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