In regard to today’s above blog post headline, it’s certainly true that the United States leads most other so-called “high-income” nations in many motor vehicle-related outcomes.
The problem with that is this, though: None of those things are pegged to anything positive that is occurring on American roadways.
In fact, and as noted by the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the statistics relevant to street and highway outcomes across the country are largely dismal, if not outright depressing.
Here’s one: The accident fatality rate nationally was more than double that of other comparison countries (think of nations like Canada, Germany, Japan, Sweden and the U.K.) in a recent year.
In hard numbers, that means this: About 90 people on average die every day of the year in motor vehicle accidents across the United States.
Many of those fatalities are wrongful highway deaths where third-party negligence was a clear accident-causing catalyst.
Think things like drunk driving. The CDC notes that inebriated drivers “contributed to more than 10,000 crash deaths” in 2013. Other distracted driving behaviors undoubtedly featured in a central way in the crashes that killed more than 32,000 people and injured about two million others that year.
From examination of relevant safety data compiled by the national nonprofit group Governors Highway Safety Association, Colorado could be doing better on the safety front by adopting some measures that are a commonplace in many countries with enviable roadway records.
Those nations typically have “primary” enforcement laws in place regarding seat belts, meaning that police officers can stop and ticket drivers for belt infractions without having had to note some other unlawful act being committed first. Moreover, primary enforcement in many of those countries is applicable to every vehicle occupant, in both the front and back seats.
Colorado, conversely, has a “secondary” seat belt law; an officer can only cite a driver or passengers if he or she has initially stopped a vehicle for some other reason. And in Colorado, enforcement applies to only front-seat occupants.
Many comparison nations also impose an ignition interlock requirement on all individuals — even first-time offenders — convicted of drunk driving. The GHSA notes that the law in Colorado is nowhere near that stringent, with interlocks being a matter of judicial discretion and “incentivized for all convictions.”