Traffic Fatalities Are a Uniquely American Problem, Why?

In 1997, a traffic program called Vision Zero was first implemented in Sweden, leading to an incredible 67% drop in traffic fatalities

As more countries adopted the Vision Zero plan, traffic fatalities decreased in huge numbers. 

However, while the United States has tried implementing Vision Zero, its efforts have not been as successful. The U.S. has a vehicle death rate that is almost three times higher than that of Canada, Australia, or France, more than four times higher than Germany or Japan, and more than five times higher than Scandinavia, Switzerland, or Britain.

And although the U.S. death toll had been on a downward trend for 45 years, we hit a major roadblock in 2015 when the number of people lost in crashes jumped 7.2% from 2014, the most significant increase in 50 years. 

More than 44,000 Americans died in traffic crashes in 2023, which was a 13% increase from 2019 until now.

So, why are traffic fatalities a uniquely American problem? Experts have some theories. 

Americans Drive Distracted Way More Than Other Countries

Traffic fatalities even continued to go up in the U.S. during the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, traffic levels dropped to the lowest in decades, with millions of Americans staying close to home during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Federal Highway Administration reported that the number of miles traveled by vehicles in 2020 decreased by about 430 billion miles, representing a 13% decline.

However, motor vehicle fatalities increased by 7%. This was the highest number of deaths since 2007. The culprit? Those who did continue to drive were more reckless, including speeding, distracted driving, and impaired driving.

American drivers are more distracted than ever, which may explain why fatalities have increased whereas they’ve continued to decrease in nearly every other country. Here are some other reasons why:

  • Since the introduction of smartphones in 2007, distracted driving has skyrocketed. Surveys suggest Americans spend more time on their phones while driving than people do in other countries.
  • Americans have less available and accessible public transportation, and most cities are built to prioritize cars over pedestrians.
  • Most American cars have an automatic transmission, while most European vehicles have a manual transmission, which requires a hands-on approach to driving and limits distractions.
  • Billions are spent on the U.S. roadway system each year. Still, many current and former employees of the U.S. Department of Transportation argue that the money is mainly spent on making roads faster or more efficient and not safer.

Protect Your Kids and Keep the Dialogue Going 

It will take all of us to impact driving crashes and fatalities significantly. Public policy, funding for safer streets, and driver awareness must come together to create a country that prioritizes safety. However, there are some things you can do to prevent traffic accidents and protect yourself and others:

  • Silence and put away all phones for the duration of your drive.
  • Keep your eyes on the road and leave the distractions at home.
  • When buying a new or used car, prioritize safety ratings and purchase vehicles with safety features. Also, be sure to run a recall check on your car at
  • If you are a pedestrian or bicyclist, pay attention to vehicle traffic even if you have the right of way. A distracted driver could mean disaster.
  • Follow all posted speed limits and wear your seat belt.
  • Always drive alert, awake, and sober.

If you have been injured in a traffic accident and you wish to discuss the specifics of your case in a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer, please contact us today.