Driving Safety: Where in the world are the safest drivers?

Debbie

 

Iceland have been grabbing the headlines for numerous reasons recently and although England’s Euro 2016 campaign was a bit of a car crash, that’s something you can’t say about their Nordic opponents. According to the World Health Organisation Iceland is one of the safest countries in the world in which to drive, with 2.8 deaths per 100,000 people annually. Compare that to the Dominican Republic which weighs in with a brutal 2,398.

Worldwide, 3,400 people a day are killed in accidents for various reasons, and in 2010 a person was killed every 25 seconds on the roads. Part of the problem (and by implication the obvious solution) is that only 28 of the 200+ worldwide nations have laws in place to address the five most important risk factors in driving or cycling: speed, seat belts, child restraints, helmets and drink driving.

Other nations that are regarded as safe can roughly be split into two categories; those that actually do have safe drivers and driving systems, and those where there’s much less need to drive. It explains why nations such as Sweden, Netherlands and Denmark rank alongside Kiribati, Maldives and the Federated States of Micronesia figuring in some top ten lists of fewest road fatalities per 100,000 inhabitants per year.

To take an example, Kiribati is a minute Pacific republic of 33 atolls, many of which are uninhabited. The capital South Tarawa is a group of islets and has just one road network, which was recently updated to include the installation of footpaths, improved drainage and other safety measures – designed to knock down the 2.9 fatalities per year even further. Similarly, one cannot imagine that the 607 islands spread across 1,678 miles of Pacific sea that comprise the Federated States of Micronesia do not have anything resembling the M25.

According to Euroblawg, a shared characteristic of those countries deemed to be safest is tougher punishment for poor driving. Those nations include Germany, Northern Ireland, the aforementioned Iceland, and Sweden. In 2014, 264 people died in road crashes in Sweden, a record low stretching back several decades. The peak was in 1970, but despite far higher road usage 46 years on the highways continue to improve in safety.

How has this happened? According to The Economist it can be simply summed up in one word: planning. Low speed limits in built up areas, more crossings, and ‘2+1 roads’ – where each lane of traffic takes turns to use a central lane for overtaking – are among the steps that were laid down in the 1997 ‘Vision Zero’ blueprint. One child under the age of seven in the entire country died on the roads in 2012 – proof of the scheme’s success.

Volvo is a keen proponent of driverless cars and the hope is that eliminating driver error – which causes up to 90% of accidents – will drive down deaths and accidents even further in the coming years. Before then correct mirror usage, and vehicle safety solutions such as external cameras and sensors, will have to suffice. Even in Iceland.

Volvo is a keen proponent of driverless cars and the hope is that eliminating driver error – which causes up to 90% of accidents – will drive down deaths and accidents even further in the coming years. Before then correct mirror usage, and vehicle safety solutions such as external cameras and sensors, will have to suffice. Even in Iceland.

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