Jul 282011

About 24,000 people were killed last year in traffic accidents in Mexico according to Ángel Martínez, Director of the Mexican Traffic Safety Research Center (Spanish acronym CESVI) . In the USA, the number was about 33,000 in 2010. Does this mean that is safer to drive in Mexico than the USA?

The simple answer is “no” because the USA has three times as many people, about ten times as many registered vehicles, and probably drives over ten times as many vehicle-miles as Mexico. Comparing traffic deaths among countries is relatively complicated because the data are often lacking or not comparable.

A large 2009 World Health Organization (WHO) study indicates that traffic deaths are related to numerous factors. Obviously, the number, age, condition and mix of motor vehicles are very important. Two-wheeled motor vehicles can be more dangerous than automobiles, buses or trucks. Furthermore, road quality, traffic infrastructure, laws, and enforcement are major factors. Many countries do not require use of seat belts, helmets or child seats. The training, skill level and behavior of drivers, as well as pedestrians, are also important. Other factors are alcohol use by drivers and pedestrians, as well as the quality and efficiency of emergency medical teams and health care systems.

50-vehicle pile-up in fog, Saltillo, January 2011

50-vehicle pile-up in fog, Saltillo, January 2011

According to the WHO study, Mexico ranked 12th in the world in total traffic fatalities. China ranked first with 221,000 deaths per year, followed by India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Indonesia, Russia, Brazil, USA, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran and then Mexico. Total deaths are related to population, number of vehicles and pedestrians, poor traffic control and emergency medical systems, as well as crowded roads shared by everything from trucks, buses, cars and motor bikes to livestock and pedestrians.

Mexico has about 21 traffic deaths per year per 100,000 population. This is a fairer way to compare countries. On this statistic, Mexico does slightly worse than Brazil (18), China (17), India (17), Indonesia (16), and Thailand (20). Though Mexico is slightly better than Peru (22), Venezuela (22), Russia (25), and Pakistan (25), considerable improvement is needed. President Calderón has set as a goal of reducing traffic deaths by 50% by 2020. Mexico is significantly behind some of the other Western Hemisphere countries such as Canada (9), USA (11), Argentina (14), Colombia (17) and even Guatemala (15).

The major countries with the safest traffic are Japan (5), UK (5), Germany (6), and France (8). The least safe countries are mostly in Africa and include Egypt (42), Ethiopia (35), Kenya (34), Nigeria (32), the Congo (32) and South Africa (33).

Wear your seat belt and drive safely!

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