Countries with the highest and lowest auto fatality rates (via UMTRI)
For reference, the U.S. had 817 deaths per 100,000 residents from all four causes, which is slightly better than the average global fatality rate of 844. In terms of auto fatalities, the U.S. had 14 deaths per 100,000, placing it above the global average of 18.
We should point out that the report leaves out a few countries that might've made the "ten safest" lists, but weren't included -- countries like Greenland and Vatican City. It also overlooks some troubled areas that could've ended up on the bottom, like South Sudan and Palestine. Just so you know.
SO, WHAT DOES ALL THIS MEAN?
Maybe we're Type-A personalities, but when we read a report, we expect to walk away with a few bullet points. Sivak and Schoettle's findings, however, are a bit subtle for that. True, their per-country comparisons of various causes of death are interesting (e.g. the overwhelming likelihood that Qataris will die in auto accidents rather than from strokes), but the authors don't draw any conclusions from those stats or offer any suggestions to explain them.
Perhaps Sivak and Schoettle began their work assuming/hoping that they'd find some overlap between the various causes of death. Unfortunately, they were comparing apples to apples, and such Freakonomic-style linkages occur more often when comparing apples to oranges -- in this case, for example, looking for parallels between education rates or GDP and auto fatalities.
And so, we're left with three major takeaways:
1. The knowledge that auto fatalities constitute a mere sliver of the world's deaths: "For the world, fatalities from road crashes represented 2.1% of fatalities from all causes.... The highest percentage by country (15.9% in the United Arab Emirates) was 53 times the lowest percentage (0.3% in the Marshall Islands)."
2. Math still works: "For a country to have fatalities from road crashes corresponding to a high percentage of fatalities from another cause requires either a high fatality rate per population from road crashes, or a low fatality rate from the other cause, or both. The converse applies to a low percentage." Which is a complicated sentence, but also duh.
3. Decent, if grisly fodder for cocktail party conversations.
If you're intrigued by this kind of data, you should really check out a similar study published by the Pulitzer Center based on WHO data from 2010. Though many of the best and worst performers are the same as in Sivak and Schoettle's report, the findings are far more nuanced.
The Pulitzer Center looked only at auto fatalities, taking into account the number of people killed as auto passengers as well as those killed while riding motorcycles, bicycles, and while walking. It also provided data on legal efforts to curb auto fatalities in each country, which was immensely interesting to data hounds like us.
Granted, the folks at Pulitzer didn't draw many telling conclusions, either, but at least their data's pretty.