U.S. behind Europe in reducing traffic fatalities

A new National Academies study says the U.S. is falling behind other countries in reducing traffic fatalities. Between 2005 and 2009, France reduced fatalities by 52 percent, the UK by 38 percent and Australia by 25 percent. Fifteen other high income studies saw a 50 percent, while the U.S. lagged at only 19 percent.

Dave Ragland is director of Berkeley's SAFETREC -- Safe Transportation Research and Education Center. He says the academies study means the technology and policies are available.

"The only thing we're missing in this country is the political will and the resources to increase our efforts," he said.

The academy suggest the department of transportation work with state governments to create better traffic safety programs and it cites two critical enforcement tactics effective in other countries -- automated speed limit enforcement and frequent sobriety checks.

"A large number of policies could be implemented that are effective all the way from vehicle design, highway design, enforcement, improve driver training method and so on," Ragland said.

Nearly 34,000 people died in traffic accidents in the U.S. last year and in California, that number was just more than 3,000.

"We're doing a good job, our mileage death rate has been going down over the years, we are doing all the different things that we can. We can always do more and we are looking for better ways to design our roadways, better enforcement angles," CHP officer Sean Chase said.

California is ahead of other states, with a highway safety plan overseen by Caltrans, the CHP and Office of Traffic Safety. Ragland says the academies' suggestions for a national plan will help create the political will to get it done.

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