Highway death toll dwarfs that of terrorism, study finds

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The death rate from highway crashes is almost 400 times higher than the death rate from international terrorism, according to a study published in the November issue of Injury Prevention, a British journal.

The study’s authors, led by Nick Wilson of Otago University in New Zealand, compared highway deaths to terrorism deaths in the 29 countries comprising the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development from 1994 to 2003.

“In 2001 as many people died every 26 days on U.S. roads as died in the terrorist bombings of 9-11,” the study said. Counting all the countries together, the highway death toll matched the 9-11 death toll every nine days, the study said.

According to the study, 2,970 people died in terrorist incidents in the United States from 1994 to 2003, but other tallies put the Sept. 11, 2001 deaths alone as higher than that.

In compiling its numbers, the study used traffic data from the OECD International Road Transport Accident Database and terrorism data from the U.S. State Department’s Counterterrorism Office, which tallied 33 terrorist attacks causing 3,064 deaths during that time. Those numbers do not include the terrorists’ deaths.

Among the 10 countries with deaths attributed to international terrorism, the ratios ranged from the United States, with 142 highway deaths for every terrorism death, to Poland, with more than 55,000 highway deaths for every terrorism death, the study said. Turkey had the highest number of fatal terrorist attacks at 11, the study said.

The study’s timeframe omitted terrorist incidents such as the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing in 1988, the Madrid rail bombings in 2004 and the London transport bombings in 2005; while the study’s emphasis on international terrorism omitted incidents of domestic terrorism such as the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995.