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U.S. leads wealthy countries in traffic fatalities

Washington readers may be surprised to learn that it is more common for people to die in car accidents in the U.S. yearly than in other countries with high GDPs, according to a new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The agency says that more than 32,000 people died on American roads in 2013.

Over the last 13 years, the U.S. motor vehicle death rate has fallen by 31 percent. However, the death rates in 19 other wealthy countries have dropped by an average of 56 percent over the same period. In fact, the death rates in Spain and Denmark plummeted by 75.1 percent and 63.5 percent, respectively. The CDC reports that 18,000 more lives would have been saved if the U.S. had matched the average death rate decline of other countries.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently released data that showed a 7.7 percent increase in traffic deaths in 2015. According to the CDC, U.S. death rates are attributed to drunk driving, speeding and lack of seat belt use, particularly among children. In 2013, 38 percent of traffic fatality victims under the age of 12 were not buckled up. Vital Signs reports that 3,000 more lives could be saved each year if all vehicle occupants used seat belts. The report urges people to never drive while impaired, obey speed limits and avoid distractions, such as texting or talking on cell phones.

While overall traffic safety is improving in the United States, this report makes clear that irresponsible drivers continue to cause thousands of fatal motor vehicle accidents every year. Families who have lost a loved one to a drunk, reckless or distracted driver may have grounds to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the at-fault driver.

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