Lots of people think that their home town has the worst traffic, the most aggressive drivers, the craziest cabbies. Sometimes they have strong anecdotal evidence. Russian drivers often employ dashboard cameras to record seemingly inevitable collisions with reckless motorists. In the United Arab Emirates city of Abu Dhabi, a three-day Blackberry phone outage coincided with a 40 percent drop in traffic accidents. When I visited Cairo, where just crossing the street is a sort of art form in itself, I presumed no roads could be more dangerous until a friend who had just returned from Indonesia assured me that Jakarta’s are far worse.
So who has the world’s most dangerous roads? It turns out, based on a comprehensive World Health Organization report that measures road safety by the number of motor vehicle-related deaths per 100,000 people, the answer is the Dominican Republic.
The Caribbean island nation (it shares the island of Hispanolia with Haiti) reports a staggering 41.7 driving deaths per 100,000 people per year. That means that, in any given year, a Dominican person has a one in 2,398 chance of being killed by a car. That’s not so bad until you extrapolate out by 70 years and find that, over a lifetime, a Dominican’s odds of dying in a car-related accident are one in 480. The WHO report notes that the Dominican Republic has weak helmet and speed laws and even weaker drunk driving laws. More than half of driving related deaths, 58 percent, are of occupants or drivers of two- or three-wheeled vehicles. In other words, motorcycles.