Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in the USA has just released a fascinating report based on research into driver education levels and crash statistics. The report concludes that drivers with fewer qualifications are more likely to die in traffic accidents than motorists with lower levels of education. Researchers based their evidence on data drawn from the National Centre for Health Statistics, the Current Population Survey and the National Household Travel Survey to calculate distances travelled. They examined trends in education related inequalities for vehicle collisions from 1995 to 2010. The study was published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.
Smarter people crash less
Mortality rates decreased among highly educated drivers and mortality rates increased among less well educated drivers. Drivers with fewer qualifications were 2.5 times more likely to be killed in a road collision in 1995 than drivers with more qualifications. By 2010 this mortality rate had increased even further to 4.3 times higher.
Immediately you might link evidence of intelligence (in the form of qualifications) with better driving skills. However, we all know that you don’t need a degree to drive a car! The researchers found that less educated drivers were more prepared to endure conditions that made travelling more dangerous. For instance, lowly educated people tend to have lower incomes so they retain older cars for longer. These cars have less modern safety features such as traction control, ABS and side airbags. Traffic controls like speed bumps, stop signs are less common in poorer neighbourhoods which increase the chances of motor collisions including accidents involving pedestrians. Researchers also claim that these areas lack speed controls because of the community’s lack of influence. I’m not so sure about this latter point; I think people don’t need an education and qualifications to make their voice heard about community issues.
I think the point here is that drivers on lower incomes are forced to economise and drive older models that lack sufficient safety features. They also lack the kind of disposable income that would enable them to take advanced driving lessons. Also, it is quite possible that their vehicles are less well maintained due to financial pressures. Although the report is based on research conducted in America and doesn’t reflect our own country it would be interesting if a similar survey was undertaken here to see what the results would be.