US tops other wealthy countries in traffic death rate

US tops other wealthy countries in traffic death rate

Americans are far more likely to not wear seat belts, drive under the influence and be killed in a motor vehicle accident than residents of other high-income countries, according to a new report.

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released its latest Vital Signs report on Wednesday that found the U.S. had the highest fatality rate for car crashes in 2013 among 20 affluent countries that were examined.

In 2013, the traffic fatality rate in the U.S. was more than twice the average of other wealthy countries.

The findings come in the wake of another alarming federal report on traffic deaths, which found motor vehicle fatalities in the U.S. spiked 7.7 percent in 2015.

About 35,200 people were killed in car crashes last year, according to preliminary data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Debra Houry, director of CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, acknowledged the startling statistics but called it a “winnable” public health battle.

“We can do better, using strategies we know work,” said Houry, who is also an emergency room physician. “It’s really important to compare us not only to our past, but our potential.”

Americans tend to have a higher percentage of risk factors when it comes to road deaths, the CDC found.

The U.S. had the second-highest rate of drunken driving-related deaths and ranked 18th out of the 20 countries in frequency of seat belt use. One in three U.S. traffic deaths involved speeding, according to the report.

Although the U.S. has made progress in improving road safety and reducing crash deaths by 31 percent from 2000 to 2013, the report found that other high-income countries cut crashes by an average of 56 percent during the same time period.

Public health officials renewed their calls on Wednesday to prevent crash deaths in the U.S. by using evidence-based policies and technologies, such as employing breath-testing ignition locks and expanding the enforcement of seat belt use.

The CDC report encourages drivers to obey speed limits, avoid using drugs or alcohol before driving, always wear a seat belt and properly buckle up children in the back seat.