U.S. leads the world in fatal car accidents

From 2000 to 2013, the United States reduced car accident deaths by 31 percent. While this figure is impressive, our country still is falling behind when it comes to prevention of these tragic accidents.

In 2013, compared to 19 other high-income countries, the U.S. still has the highest rate of car crash deaths, at a rate of 10.3 per 100,000 people - or about 90 people per day. This is more than twice the combined average of the other countries in the Vital Signs report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Countries that were included in this report, in addition to the U.S., include Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. The average reduction in car crash deaths among these countries was 56 percent, with the highest rate of 75 percent in Spain. The countries with the lowest rate of accident deaths per 100,000 people are Sweden with 2.7, the United Kingdom with 2.8 and Switzerland with 3.3.

So what contributes to our country's grim statistics?

The biggest culprit seems to be seat belt use, or lack thereof. About half of the 32,000 people who died in car crashes in 2013 were not wearing a seat belt or in a car or booster seat.

Another major cause, which is not surprising, is drunk driving. Of the 32,000 car accident fatalities in 2013, about 10,000 were caused by someone under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Other contributors to fatal accident statistics include speeding, which accounted for about 9,500 deaths. Distracted driving is another huge issue, but one that is more difficult to measure statistically.

The federal government, as well as individual states, will be looking at policies and procedures to help with fatal accident prevention. You can do your part by using seat belts, keeping young children in booster or car seats and not engaging in driving while drunk, on drugs or distracted.

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