Proceedings of the 24th World International Traffic Medicine Association Congress, Qatar 2015
  • ISSN: 2223-0440
  • EISSN:


The July 1938 issue of the American Journal of Psychology contained an insightful paper on car driving(1). Since that time an enormous technical literature devoted to driving and traffic safety has emerged, resulting in a solid edifice of detailed knowledge(2). Yet many of the most basic questions remain unanswered according to the strictest scientific reasoning. For example, it is widely assumed that we know how a driver’s crash risk is affected by the consumption of alcohol(3). This has never been, nor ever can be, experimentally examined. Likewise, we have no direct experimental investigation of how a driver’s crash risk increases with increasing speed. Our estimate of the effectiveness of safety belts (4) in preventing fatalities rests on an assumption that we know is not true. The most reliable data we do have for most countries is a count of annual fatalities. Even though this is not quite perfect, changes from year to year are accurate provided any biases do not change much from year to year. An assumption-free dimensionless measure not subject to the above problems is a nation’s fatalities in a given year divided by that nation’s maximum number of fatalities in any year(5). Applying this measure to 2013 data from 26 countries leads to a crystal clear conclusion that is even more dramatic and irrefutable than that previously reported using earlier data.5 The USA is a stark outlier. From 1972 to 2013 traffic deaths in the USA declined by 40.1%. This was hailed as success by some USA policy leaders. However, in, for example, the Netherlands traffic deaths in the same period declined by 83.7%. If USA deaths had declined by the same percent as in the Netherlands, then in 2013 the USA would have suffered 8,87532,719 that actually occurred. If the USA had matched the declines recorded in any of 11 countries, then 20,000 fewer Americans would have been killed on the roads of the USA in 2013. The clear message is that the USA approach to safety (to be discussed) needs to change and should never be embraced by any other country. References: 1. Gibson, JJ, Crooks, LE. A theoretical field-analysis of automobile driving, Am J Psych 1938; 5l: 453-7l. Complete text available at http://www.scienceservingsociety.com/GC.htm 2. Evans L. Traffic Safety. Bloomfield Hills, MI: Science Serving Society; 2004. Information at http://www.scienceservingsociety.com/traffic-safety.htm 3. Borkenstein RF, Crowther RF, Shumate RP, Ziel WB, Zylman, R. The role of the drinking driver in traffic accidents. Department of Police Administration, Indiana University; 1964. 4. Evans L. The effectiveness of safety belts in preventing fatalities. Accid Anal Prev. 1986; 18: 229-241. 5. Evans L. Traffic fatality reductions in the United States compared to reductions in 25 countries. Am J Public Health. 2014;104:1501-1507. Available at http://www.scienceservingsociety.com/p/195.pdf


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  • Article Type: Research Article

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