A statistical model to compare road mortality in OECD countries

Accid Anal Prev. 2001 May;33(3):371-85. doi: 10.1016/s0001-4575(00)00051-8.


The objective of this paper is to compare safety levels and trends in OECD countries from 1980 to 1994 with the help of a statistical model and to launch international discussion and further research about international comparisons. Between 1980 and 1994, the annual number of fatalities decreased drastically in all the selected countries except Japan (+ 12%), Greece (+ 56%) and ex-East Germany (+ 50%). The highest decreases were observed in ex-West Germany (- 48%), Switzerland (- 44%), Australia (- 40%), and UK (- 39%). In France, the decrease in fatalities over the same period reached 34%. The fatality rate, an indicator of risk, decreased in the selected countries from 1980 to 1994 except in the east-European countries during the motorization boom in the late 1980s. As fatality rates are not sufficient for international comparisons, a statistical multiple regression model is set up to compare road safety levels in 21 OECD countries over 15 years. Data were collected from IRTAD (International Road Traffic and Accident Database) and other OECD statistical sources. The number of fatalities is explained by seven exogenous (to road safety) variables. The model, pooling cross-sectional and time series data, supplies estimates of elasticity to the fatalities for each variable: 0.96 for the population; 0.28 for the vehicle fleet per capita; -0.16 for the percentage of buses and coaches in the motorised vehicle fleet; 0.83 for the percentage of youngsters in the population; - 0.41 for the percentage of urban population; 0.39 for alcohol consumption per capita; and 0.39 for the percentage of employed people. The model also supplies a rough estimate of the safety performance of a country: the regression residuals are supposed to contain the effects of essentially endogenous and unobserved variables, independent to the exogenous variables. These endogenous variables are safety performance variables (safety actions, traffic safety policy, network improvements and social acceptance). A new indicator, better than the mortality rate, is then set upon the residuals. Mean estimates of this indicator for the years 1980-1982 and the years 1992-1994 rank the countries in the beginning and at the end of the study period. Countries showing the best ranks (and thus the best performance) in 1980 and 1994 are Sweden, the Netherlands and Norway. The UK and Switzerland reach the top 5 in 1994. Greece, Belgium, Portugal and Spain are the last countries in the classification along with, surprisingly, the USA. France was ranked 18th in 1980 and 15th in 1994 but is ranked amongst the five countries that most improved from 1980 to 1994. This model remains non definitive because it is not able to distinguish between safety performance and unobserved exogenous variables although these exogenous variables could explain more about the differences in levels and trends between the countries. More complex models, particularly highly sophisticated models regarding the number of fatalities with breakdowns by road users or road classes would be needed to give a precise and profound ranking of safety levels and safety improvements between countries.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Traffic / mortality*
  • Humans
  • Models, Statistical*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Risk Factors
  • Safety*