By Sandy Myhre
Driving is always a risk and in some countries, riskier than in others.
The World Health Organisation has published statistics on the death-by-car-accident rate in most countries in the world.
If you want to drive in the safest place on earth, go to the Federated States of Micronesia where the death rate in car accidents per 100,000 people is 1.9. But let’s get realistic here. The Caroline Islands Archipelago of the Western Pacific, sort of north of Papua New Guinea, has a very small population and not many cars. And it’s not exactly on a familiar tourist trail. Logically, those combinations reduce the statistical road toll.
At the other end of the scale and as a comparison, your chances of dying in a car in Thailand is a whopping 36.2 per 100,000 people. By all accounts it’s fairly easy to get a driver’s licence in Thailand and as one writer suggested, given the road toll rate in that country and to experience just how bad many Thai drivers are, you might wish it was tougher to be qualified to drive.
There are some other curiosities in the statistics. For instance, in Israel the fatal road toll rate is a small 3.2 per 100,000 and yet close by in Iran it’s a concerning 32.1 – almost at Thailand’s level. Could Israel’s comparatively low road toll have something to do with driver training?
In Israel the minimum age to qualify is just under 17 years and before taking the actual driving test, potential drivers must receive at least 28 lessons with a certified driving school. In Iran, you must be at least 18 years old (and for certain classes at least 25 years old) and fill out lots of forms. From a Google search it’s hard to determine whether actual driver training is required and given those WHO statistics, perhaps not.
You could always head to Mexico City, Pakistan or India where getting a driver’s licence is almost as easy as walking in to a shop and buying one, no driving skills test or theory exam required. You’d think that because it’s so easy, so casual, to drive in those places that their road toll statistics would be high but, in fact, they’re not as high as in many other parts of the world. Mexico is 12.3, Pakistan 14.2 and India 16.6. The overall region with the worst death-by-car-accident statistics is Africa at 26.6.
If you’re a nervous driver, you’ll be avoiding those places right now and head north to the appropriately-named Norway. It’s time-consuming to get a driver’s licence there but you’ll emerge with a greater understanding of the skills required to drive, how a car handles in certain conditions, and you’ll understand road traffic behaviour before inflicting yourself on an unsuspecting population because those modules are all required under the licencing system. And you’ll learn them from an approved school.
Not surprisingly, at 2.2, Norway has considerably better road toll statistics than most other countries in the world. As an aside, Norway also has the best uptake in the world of electric cars. There, polluting petrol cars are taxed heavily so the incentive to go electric is considerable. Since most of Norway’s electricity is renewable, neither is charging a car a drain on the grid and, in any case, car charging accounts for only around five percent of electricity uptake.
Looking at road toll statistics in other countries – in the UK it’s 2.9 (not much higher than Norway) in Germany it’s 4.3 and in Australia it’s 5.4. In those four countries it’s harder to get a driver’s licence than in New Zealand, for instance, and some of those countries require a traffic management test as well. New Zealand’s road toll per 100,000 is 8.5 – nearly three times higher than the UK and more twice that of Germany, as just two examples.
A conclusion easy to draw is, the harder the driver licencing test the better the road toll statistics. But not always. In the USA it’s more difficult to obtain a car licence than in New Zealand yet at 10.6 their road toll per 100,000 is higher than New Zealand’s and it’s difficult to pinpoint the reasons why.
Road conditions and geographical features play a part. But Norway would have far more difficult terrain than a large proportion of the USA, yet Norway’s fatal road toll is nearly three times lower than that of the USA.
Could it be the sheer number of cars on the road? Looking at the number of vehicles per capita, the United States has 910 cars per 1,000 population and New Zealand (the fourth-ranked country in this regard) has 774. San Marino has the highest car ownership rate (1,263 per 1,000 people) and Monaco (899) the third.
San Marino’s fatal road toll statistic (using the same WHO figures) is 3.2. Statistics aren’t available for Monaco but comparing San Marino with the USA in terms of car ownership, it’s not hard to realise it’s not the number of cars on the road but the driver, euphemistically referred to as the nut behind the wheel.