Automobile Accident Deaths in U.S. Can Be Reduced With Laws and Regulations: WHO Report

An estimated 1.25 million people are killed worldwide every year in traffic accidents, and a new report by the World Health Organization (WHO) suggests that the U.S. may be falling behind on enacting laws and regulations that reduce the risk of automobile accident deaths caused by speeding and drunk driving.

The WHO Global Status Report ranked the U.S. along with Indonesia and Nigeria as countries who fail to apply the best practices to make roads safe. The lowest death rates are found in Europe, while Africa has the highest.

WHO noted that lower average traffic speeds not only reduce the risk of injury and death if an accident occurs, but also reduces emissions that cause respiratory problems. The report found that an adult pedestrian struck by a car doing less than 31 miles per hour (mph) (50 kph) is less than 20%. However, if hit by a car traveling 50 mph (80 kph), that risk jumps to 60%.

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The report also found that speed zones of 19 mph (30 kph) or less reduce the risk of a crash and are recommended in areas that have vulnerable road users, such as around residential areas and schools.

Drunk driving also plays an important factor not only in the likelihood of an accident, but also in the severity of the injuries suffered, WHO reports.

According to the findings, having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) above 0.04 g/dl seriously increases the risk of an auto accident, and laws requiring a BAC of 0.05 g/dl or below reduce the risk of crashes. The U.S. overall has a legal limit of 0.08 g/dl the report determined.

Youths are even more vulnerable to accidents when driving under the influence. They are more likely to crash when compared to older and more experienced drivers who have been drinking and begin suffering the effects at a BAC of 0.02 g/dl. Laws requiring their BAC at 0.02 g.dl or lower decrease the number of youth-related auto accidents by up to 24% WHO researchers found.

The recommendations also call for increased motorcycle helmet laws, seatbelt and child restraint requirements, and laws against distracted driving, such as caused by the use of cell phones and other mobile devices.


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