Stats from the OECD: Comparing traffic injuries of the United States and Netherlands

For an article I’m writing for Architect’s Newspaper about the Chicago Forward CDOT Action Agenda, I wanted to know about traffic injuries and fatalities in the United States, but compared to the Netherlands and Denmark and other places with a Vision Zero campaign (to have 0 traffic deaths each year).

I already knew the OECD had a good statistics database and web application. With a few clicks, I can quickly get a table of traffic injuries (casualties) listing just the countries I want. I can easily select the years I want, too.

In one more click the web application will show a time animated bar chart. A feature I’d like to see added is dividing the figure (in this case traffic injuries) by the population. Check out the video to see what it looks like. The United States looks to be in terrible shape, but our country has several times more residents.

I had trouble downloading and opening the CSV file of the data table I created. The XLS file was damaged, also. The built-in Mac OS X Archive Utility app couldn’t open the .gz file, but I used The Unarchiver app successfully.

My calculations, based on data from OECD (national population and traffic fatalities), Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT), and the American Community Survey:

Fatalities per 100,000 in 2009

  • United States: 11.02472
  • Denmark: 5.48969
  • Netherlands: 4.35561
  • Sweden: 3.84988
  • Chicago: 16.74891
  • United Kingdom: 3.83555

Chicago’s fatality rate per 100,000 citizens in 2009 was 16.75 (473 deaths on the roads). The fatality rate dropped in 2010: just 11.65 deaths per 100,000 residents (315 deaths on the roads; the population also decreased).

Updated September 28, 2012, to add the United Kingdom. 

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About Steven Vance

Enthusiast for urbanism, bicycling as transportation, and open data. Building a bicycle culture in Chicago.
  • Tallycyclist

    These can be very useful tools for planners, community activists, etc, especially since it takes time and sometimes a lot of digging to find all this information.  Thanks for putting this together!  I hope you’ll eventually do this for specific modes, such as cycling.  But you will need to be a little careful and take into consideration things like the number of cyclists (absolute and relative) and demographics (age, gender) and types of usage (commuting vs. riding on a path in a park).  For instance, Holland had around 170 bike fatalities in 2010 I believe, while in Florida this was something like 107.  Florida also has about 5-6 million more inhabitants than Holland.  Without looking at anything else, one could say that it’s safer to bike in Florida, which I can assure anyone as a Floridian resident and everyday cyclists that that is not the case.  We simply don’t have >4 million daily cyclists commuting on the streets in our cities from the ages of 8-80.  If we suddenly did, I don’t want to imagine what the fatality numbers would be. 

    The reason why I even bring this up is because you mentioned that the US has way more people than countries like Denmark and Holland.  That is very true but that in itself won’t necessary reflect on behaviors of people or statistics.  I’m not trying to accuse you of not being considerate of these factors, but I can just see people trying to make excuses and/or ignore certain aspects of the data.  

    It’s also a shame these data can’t express things like quality of commute.  Even if death rates are not very large, having to constantly share the space on roads with high speed, high volume traffic, taking the lane with large SUV’s tailgating (and perhaps honking and swearing) or conditions in general that make cycling a hassle aren’t going to make for a pleasant ride.  

    • Steven Vance

      I have the tools and access to data to write a bit more, and this article represents only a portion of the analysis I made to prepare for the magazine article I’m writing. It takes a lot of energy for me to write articles like this because I want to be accurate and I want to have a solid analysis, and that takes a lot of time. More time than sometimes articles on my personal blog deserve.
      The main data set I want but don’t have is bicycle ridership for all trips in Chicago. And then a second data set that has cyclists passing a point on a street in a 24-hour or one-week period. The data for ridership in Chicago is sporadic, but it’s getting better. I wrote two articles to that effect:
      1. 2.
      Bike Score and Walk Score are the starting points for algorithmically expressing things like the quality of the commute. You could use road width as a proxy for practiced driving speeds, and then hook it up with traffic counts that the state DOTs conduct. But just asking people at meetings where problem areas are should work, too. See this series: