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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 3. International parallels." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Identification of Factors Contributing to the Decline of Traffic Fatalities in the United States from 2008 to 2012. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25590.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 3. International parallels." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Identification of Factors Contributing to the Decline of Traffic Fatalities in the United States from 2008 to 2012. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25590.
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Page 7 Chapter 3. International parallels The U.S. decline in motor vehicles fatalities over the period from 2007 through 2011 was paralleled in many other countries with advanced economies that were affected by the global recession. There have been several European studies of the relationship between the state of the economy and traffic safety in general, and the particular effect of the 2007-2009 recession. A recent comprehensive report by IRTAD (International Traffic Safety Data and Analysis Group) of the International Transport Forum addressed the relationship between economic conditions and road safety. The report showed that traffic fatalities declined significantly over the period. One analysis considered 18 European countries, including Ireland and the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Spain, Austria, and Sweden, as well as several smaller countries. In this analysis, each of the countries experienced a substantial decline, ranging from 14% in France to 60% in Lithuania. Germany experienced a 19% decline, the United Kingdom 35%, and Spain 40% (Antoniou, Yannis et al. n.d.). In comparison, the reduction in the U.S. over the same period was about 21.3%, which fit within the range observed for the IRTAD countries, and only somewhat less than the overall reduction for the sum of the IRTAD countries. Table 3-1 Reduction in traffic fatalities, selected European countries and the U.S., 2007-2011 Country  Decline 2007 to  2011  Country  Decline 2007 to  2011  Belgium  21.3%  Hungary  48.1%  Czech republic  37.0%  Netherlands  22.4%  Germany  19.1%  Austria  24.6%  Estonia  48.5%  Poland  25.4%  Ireland  44.4%  Portugal  19.7%  Greece  31.8%  Finland  23.7%  Spain  39.9%  Sweden  34.0%  France  14.1%  United Kingdom  34.7%  Italy  23.2%  IRTAD countries  27.3%  Lithuania  59.6%  US  21.3%  Adapted from (Antoniou, Yannis et al. n.d.)  Elvik (2013) studied the remarkable drop in traffic fatalities in the countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) (which overlaps with IRTAD). Traffic fatalities in the countries studied dropped by a combined 12.6% from 2008 through 2010. He attributed 65% of the reduction to the recession. Decreases in VMT accounted for relatively little of the decline, implying that a decline in fatal crash risk as such was the primary factor. Although data were not available to test directly,

Page 8 he suggested factors could have included a disproportionate reduction in travel by high-risk groups (e.g., young people) or more cautious driving including reduced leisure travel (Elvik 2013). Lloyd, et al. (2015) studied the decline in traffic fatalities in Great Britain from 2007 through 2010. They also found that changes in VMT contributed relatively little to the reduction, other than for heavy trucks (similar to the U.S. experience). The researchers found that the largest drop in fatalities was for young males and females, and that more recent passenger vehicle model years were associated with a lower proportion of crash fatalities, suggesting that newer cars provided more protection in crashes. In addition, they observed a decline in crashes associated with alcohol impairment, which the authors attributed to people imbibing at home rather than going out, i.e., less leisure and discretionary driving. Finally, the researchers observed a reduction in the percentage of speeders on motorways (the highest road class), which was consistent with the hypothesis that people drove more cautiously in the economically-difficult times (Lloyd, Wallbank et al. 2015). In another study, Forsman, et al., examined the substantial drop in traffic fatalities in Sweden during the recession years of 2008/2009 there. Consistent with the other studies, they found that the drop in fatalities was greater than could be explained by the recession-related decline in VMT. While the reduction in fatalities was associated with the recession, the researchers’ goal was to identify mechanisms, beyond changes in VMT, that produced the decline. The study compared the recession period with prior periods of economic growth. The researchers found that growth periods had higher numbers of crashes with multiple vehicles and multiple fatalities. The authors speculated that in periods of growth, there would be more vehicles on the road, increasing exposure to multiple vehicle crashes. Most of the other factors examined, include time of day, age and sex, alcohol-impaired driving and seatbelt usage, were not statistically significant, though primarily because of relatively small sample sizes. For example, the proportion of younger drivers in fatal crashes was only 15.0%, compared with almost 27% during periods of economic growth. This difference was in the expected direction and was of substantial magnitude, but not statistically significant because of the small sample size (Forsman, Simonsson et al. n.d.). However, it is consistent with the hypothesis that the composition of VMT (e.g., less travel by young drivers) rather than the magnitude of VMT that was significant in the decline.

Next: Chapter 4. Trends in risk and exposure »
Identification of Factors Contributing to the Decline of Traffic Fatalities in the United States from 2008 to 2012 Get This Book
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Between 2005 and 2011, the number of traffic fatalities in the U.S. declined by 11,031, from 43,510 in 2005 to 32,479 in 2011. This decline amounted to a reduction in traffic-related deaths of 25.4 percent, by far the greatest decline over a comparable period in the last 30 years.

Historically, significant drops in traffic fatalities over a short period of time have coincided with economic recessions. Longer recessions have coincided with deeper declines in the number of traffic fatalities. This report from the National Cooperative Highway Research Program, NCHRP Research Report 928: Identification of Factors Contributing to the Decline of Traffic Fatalities in the United States from 2008 to 2012, provides an analysis that identifies the specific factors in the economic decline that affected fatal crash risk, while taking into account the long-term factors that determine the level of traffic safety.

A key insight into the analysis of the factors that produced the sharp drop in traffic fatalities was that the young contributed disproportionately to the drop-off in traffic fatalities. Of the reduction in traffic fatalities from 2007 to 2011, people 25-years-old and younger accounted for nearly 48 percent of the drop, though they were only about 28 percent of total traffic fatalities prior to the decline. Traffic deaths among people 25-years-old and younger dropped substantially more than other groups. Young drivers are known to be a high-risk group and can be readily identified in the crash data. Other high-risk groups also likely contributed to the decline but they cannot be identified as well as age can.

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