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2004 by Leonard Evans
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More than a million people are killed in the world's traffic each year, more than 40,000 in the United
States. A problem of such staggering magnitude cries out for increased systematic understanding and more
effective countermeasures. Traffic Safety presents what science has taught us about harm in traffic. It
spells out what countermeasures can more effectively reduce harm in traffic, and offers a blueprint for
how to achieve a dramatic improvement in safety.
Traffic Safety is quite different from my 1991 book Traffic Safety and the Driver, although it does build
upon strengths of the earlier work. The present work places more focus on safety policy. It goes to the
heart of the problem, with unconstrained analyses of the inadequacies of government in one of its chief
responsibilities - to protect life and enhance public safety. It is not just government policy that can
increase or decrease traffic deaths. Actions of other organizations can also help or harm. These are
identified and critically analyzed.
One of the most dramatic developments since the earlier book is the way the United States has fallen so
far behind other countries in traffic safety. Prior to the mid 1960s, the US had the world's safest
traffic, whether measured by deaths per registered vehicle, or deaths for the same distance of travel. By
2002, the US had dropped from first to sixteenth place in deaths per registered vehicle, and from first
to tenth place in deaths for the same distance of travel. From 1979 to 2002, over 200,000 more Americans
were killed in traffic than would have been killed if the US had matched the safety progress in such
better performing countries as Britain, Canada, or Australia. This topic is treated in some detail, and
explanations are offered for the ongoing US failure.
The better performing countries did not do anything all that remarkable - it is the US that is aberrant.
All jurisdictions fall well short of what can reasonably be achieved in traffic safety. The last chapter
offers a vision of a breakthrough in which all countries can achieve huge reductions in casualties. What
is required is a number of coordinated changes which, as a complete package, can attract the public
support necessary for success.
Whereas Traffic Safety and the Driver (1991) was devoted mainly to reviewing and synthesizing research
that had already appeared in the research literature, about half of the technical material in Traffic
Safety (2004) is presented here for the first time. The absence of a cited source indicates that
the material is original to the book. The present book makes extensive use
of graphical and tabular presentations of recent data. It is intrinsically more up-to-date than Traffic
Safety and the Driver could ever have been because Traffic Safety includes just-completed research and
avoids the additional one to two year delay that is normal for major publishing houses.
This work benefits from over three decades of interactions, in many cases lively interactions, with a
vast number of professional colleagues from myriad disciplines in many countries. I have personally
interacted with most of the authors whose work is cited, and received from them much more than
the contents of their published work. In addition, I have benefited from
many discussions with professionals in policy, law, engineering, management, the media, and enforcement
who are less likely to document their contributions in the technical literature. It is with some
difficulty that I resisted the temptation to include a detailed acknowledgement list of some 200 names.
instead acknowledge here my debt, and express my thanks, to all those from whom I have learned so much
and received so much encouragement. A broader thanks is due from the world community to those same
have contributed greatly to the core purpose of this work, reducing harm from traffic crashes.