The new 'drink-driving'

Throughout the past several years the developed world has seen an increase in fatalities on the roads of many of its nations. This increase has bucked the trend of decades of decline in the absolute number of people killed in road accidents. We have graphed the changing fatality rates of five countries as an average indexed against the lowest fatality level recorded in each country. This result is stark - a constantly worsening level since an almost universal minimum in 2013.

The UN declared 2011-2020 to be the decade of action on road safety, and specified the 5 pillars of road safety - road safety management, infrastructure, safe vehicles, post-crash response and road user behaviour. Improvements in any of these categories will lead to reduced casualties. So where have we gone wrong? What was different about the period 2013-2017 compared with the period 2007-2013?

Every pillar bar one has almost certainly seen continuous improvement over the past decade in our graphed countries. Cars are safer. Infrastructure is better and designed safer. Trauma care and road safety management systems are constantly improving. This leaves road user behaviour. We think behaviour has objectively worsened, and we think a primary factor is the normalization of perpetual phone use. The USA attributes over 9% of its traffic trauma to distraction, but our graph below indicates it may be contributing well over 15%. Can you think of another credible reason for this dramatic change in trend?

Road Fatality Rate.jpg