10 most dangerous (and safest) countries for driving

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There are lots ways to die. There are also lots of people on Planet Earth tracking when and how people die. Two of those people -- Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle -- have compiled much of that data to show us where folks are most prone to die on the road.

The study is called Mortality from Road Crashes in 193 Countries: A Comparison with Other Leading Causes of Death (PDF). To compile their report, Sivak and Schoettle, who head up the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, pored over fatality statistics published by the World Health Organization in 2008. Though the two were keenly interested in traffic-related deaths, they also took note of fatalities from three other causes: heart disease, malignant neoplasms (shorthand: cancer), and cerebrovascular disease (shorthand: strokes). Then, they mapped that data, calculating the highest and lowest fatality rates associated with each illness, the fatality rates associated with auto accidents, and how the former and latter overlapped.

The good news is that, on average, strokes, heart disease, and cancer are much bigger threats to human beings than car accidents. The bad news is that in some countries, that's not entirely true. In Namibia, for example, you're 53 percent more likely to die in automobile collision than from cancer. And in Qatar, you're more than five times as likely to die in a car accident than from a stroke. You've been warned.

Here are the deadliest countries with automobile accidents, along with the number of fatalities per 100,000 residents. Note that there's only one overlapping country, Malawi. ("Congo" refers to the Republic of the Congo, not the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which is a completely separate country.)

1. Namibia (45)
2. Thailand (44)
3. Iran (38)
4. Sudan (36)
5. Swaziland (36)
6. Venezuela (35)
7. Congo (34)
8. Malawi (32)
9. Dominican Republic (32)
10. Iraq (32)

And the lowest fatality rates from auto accidents. Again, there's little overlap, other than Maldives:

184. Switzerland (5)
185. Netherlands (4)
186. Antigua and Barbuda (4)
187. Tonga (4)
188. Israel (4)
189. Marshall Islands (4)
190. Fiji (4)
191. Malta (3)
192. Tajikistan (3)
193. Maldives (2)

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.

The major takeaway is 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)."

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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.


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