Are European Roads Safer Than America’s?

Marlo was just on an interview on CNBC where a question was asked about road accident rates. A Greenpeace spokesman said that European roads were much safer than America’s, demonstrating that you can have a vehicle fleet of smaller sizes without compromising safety. Marlo admitted that he had no idea of road accident rates.

Marlo’s answer was much more honest than our friend from Greenpeace’s. According to the figures from the International Road Traffic Accident Database, there are indeed many more accidents per head here, but there is virtually no difference per vehicle kilometers traveled:

Country/Accidents per 100,000/Accidents per million VKMT/killed per billion VKMT

Austria 497/0.50/9.3
Belgium 472/0.52/11.5
France 140/0.15/9.6
Germany 408/0.49/7.8
UK 340/0.40/6.4
Netherlands 166/0.24/7.7
USA 647/0.46/9.4

The difference in accidents per head is almost certainly down to how many people drive and how much they drive. A country that drives more kilometers per driver will, all other things being equal, have more accidents per head of population.

France’s figures clearly suggest significant underreporting of non-fatal accidents. Either that or an accident is much more likely to be fatal.

Overall, it is clear that the U.S. is not more dangerous than most of Europe, with the possible exception of the UK and the Netherlands. Given that many of the fatal accidents in the U.S. are due to a higher incidence of drunk driving and lower incidence of seatbelt usage, after accounting for those two factors, it looks like the U.S. fleet may well be safer.