In the United States, motorists cover more miles driven annually than anywhere else globally. But with all those cars on the road, you’d think American drivers would be far more skilled behind the wheel than their European counterparts. But first, consider their differences in driving habits to find out the truth.
Driving Facts in the U.S. and Europe
When you compare driving in the U.S. and Europe, you will note that more accidents happen on American roads despite having fewer cars than European ones. Here are some more interesting facts about driving that should put this discrepancy into perspective:
- One-third of all crashes globally happen in America
- In 2010, 13,098 people died from car crashes in the U.S
- In 2010, there were almost 10,000 traffic deaths in California
- According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every minute, one person or child dies in a motor vehicle accident in America (so far this year)
- The U.S. has the highest reported rate of road fatalities per capita among developed countries (20.8 deaths per 1 million population)
- Traffic fatalities have increased by more than 25% since 1975 in the U.S.
- The highest annual increase in traffic fatalities occurred during 2000, with increases of 7% in 2001 and 21% in 2002
- About 60 percent of all fatal car crashes are alcohol-related
Single State Case Study
For added perspective, Kentucky holds the numeric average population per state in the US with a population of 4.3 million people. Yet there were nearly 12,000 car accidents in Lexington, KY alone by the end of October 2021. Such high numbers are indicative of the frequency of car accidents in the U.S.
Main Differences Between European and American drivers
The following points list some most frequently seen differences between American and European driving habits:
1.Pacing in Traffic
In Europe, drivers usually don’t “rush” to their destination. Instead, they often drive within the speed limit and only stop when they see a police officer, who will move them along or issue a ticket. In America, drivers usually drive at higher speeds through city streets, slowing only when they see other cars or traffic lights turning red.
2.Turning Right at Intersections
In Europe, drivers turning right must use the right lane and wait for a traffic gap before turning. In America, depending on the road, drivers turning right may use either the left or right lanes and often use their turn signals to alert other drivers about the turn.
Moreover, in France, drivers blink hazard lights on emergency vehicles even when there is no urgent need for an emergency vehicle to pass. They do this mostly to clear a way for ambulances and fire trucks blocked in traffic.
In Europe, there are no set speed limits in rural areas; drivers depend largely on the area and traffic conditions. In cities, however, drivers usually obey the speed limit to avoid speeding tickets. On the other hand, most states set speed limits in America to range from 55 mph (90 km/h) in rural and residential areas to 75 mph on major highways. As a result, drivers going beyond the speed limit will often get pulled over by police and ticketed.
The main difference between American and European driving is child safety. In the United States, drivers with children must have child seats. These seats have side-impact protection, meaning the child is protected from sideways collisions. In Europe, the child’s seat is likelier to rest on top of a baby seat or booster seat. This setup provides less protection for their head and neck in a collision.
5.Two-Way Stop Signs
In Europe, two-way stop signs are almost always found at urban intersections with high traffic volume. In the United States, they are usually located in residential areas.
6.Crossing of Traffic lanes
European drivers also allow other vehicles from the opposite direction to cross over into their lane before turning. American drivers are more inclined to allow vehicles to cross into their lane if they see that a vehicle is stopped or stuck in traffic and cannot move forward.
7.Use of Seat Belts
In America, the use of seatbelts varies from state to state. While many states require people to wear seatbelts, some states do not. For example, the state of New Hampshire has no such law for individuals above 18 years of age. In fact, in that state’s law, there is even a statement that says, “the New Hampshire code does not prohibit a person from standing or moving about inside a motor vehicle while it is being operated in a public way.
It appears as though European drivers show much greater caution, which leads to fewer unfortunate accidents. The U.S., however, is the opposite, as American drivers are more aggressive in their driving.