Every country in the world has its share of bad drivers. You only need to head out onto the roads near your home to see that for yourself! But there is a world of difference between a few bad apples and countries where bad driving is par for the course, where the rules of the road either don’t exist or are frequently ignored.
In Western countries, driving under the influence is often a major contributing factor in accidental road deaths. In South Africa, 58% of road accident deaths are caused by alcohol followed by Canada at 34% and the USA at 31%.
Driver stupidity also causes more than its fair share of road accidents whether it be through speeding, ridiculous attempts at overtaking or good old-fashioned road rage. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, driver error is the cause of 94% of road accidents in the US, and of those 33% are linked to road rage. Distractions like cell phones are also contributing to an increasing number of serious collisions.
And it’s not just in the United States where driver error causes serious road accidents. There are dozens of countries around the world where motorists are even more insane when they get behind the wheel.
Check out the list below of the 20 countries with the worst drivers in the world, and be careful if you ever have to drive in one of them!
Vietnamese drivers are among the most dangerous in the world, to such an extent that road fatalities are actually the leading cause of death for people between the ages of 15 and 29.
More people die on Vietnam’s roads every three years than have been killed by pandemic disease in the country in the whole of the last century! According to the World Health Organization, road accidents kill 14,000 people on Vietnam’s roads every year, and half of those fatalities are motorcyclists.
The Vietnamese authorities are making an effort to make the country’s roads safer and to educate their drivers in a bid to cut the number of traffic-related deaths to 20 per day, which would see the current yearly fatality total cut down to 7,300.
The government in Thailand is also implementing a series of measures to try and reduce the number of fatalities on the country’s roads, although their efforts have yet to bear any fruit. In one seven day period in early 2017, 478 people died on Thai roads as people travelled to visit family for the New Year festival, including one collision which caused 25 fatalities.
The World Health Organization ranks Thailand’s roads as the second most dangerous in the world, despite a series of government initiatives to try and improve road safety over the last decade.
Driving under the influence is a particular problem, but speeding is also a serious issue with many drivers ignoring speed limits altogether on the country’s highways. Punishment for drivers who commit these offenses is often ridiculously light.
Heading to South America now, the next country on the list of nations with the worst drivers is Venezuela. The roads in this oil-rich country are so dangerous that it is one of the top eight nations in the world where dying in a road accident is more likely than dying as a result of the most common natural cause of death – heart disease in the case of Venezuela.
The World Health Organization compiled the statistics which were used to illustrate how developing countries such as Venezuela and countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, are facing an epidemic of accidental road deaths.
The main problem appears to be that traffic laws and road policing are not keeping up with advances in motoring technology.
17 Dominican Republic
In 2013, the tiny island nation of the Dominican Republic, one half of the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, had the most road deaths per capita in the whole world according to figures from the World Health Organization.
That year, 29 out of every 100,000 people in the Dominican Republic died on the nation’s roads, with 64% of those fatalities involving motorcycles. Although the law in the Dominican Republic states that motorcycle and scooter riders have to wear helmets, the vast majority of people ignore it, a fact which undoubtedly contributes to the country’s high death toll from road collisions. Medical experts have even calculated that wearing a helmet while riding a motorcycle reduces the risk of death by 40% and the risk of serious injury by 70%.
Deaths from road traffic incidents were already high in the small African nation of Malawi, but over the last five years the number of road accidents has increased by an astonishing 174%.
Figures from the Malawi Police Service in 2017 showed that there had been nearly 31,000 road accidents between 2012 and 2016, resulting in 6,492 deaths. Along with the huge rise in the number of accidents, fatalities on the road also saw a significant 28% increase over that five-year period.
Police blame driver error for the large majority of these accidents, but other factors include the poor condition of the roads in Malawi and the lack of rules regarding how roadworthy a vehicle has to be, resulting in a lot of dangerous motors being on the streets.
Nigeria is another African country with a poor record when it comes to road accidents and traffic-related fatalities. In 2017, the country had the dubious honor of recording one of the highest rates of road deaths on the whole continent, according to the Nigerian Federal Road Safety Corps.
For every 100,000 people in the country, 33.7 will die on Nigerian roads. Congestion on the country’s over-stretched road network is a major cause of road accidents, and the country has recently introduced new rules on the mandatory installation of speed limiters on commercial vehicles.
As of 2017, only around a third of vehicles have complied with the new rules, but it remains to be seen whether this will have an impact on road safety in Nigeria.
The country of Liberia in West Africa is one of the poorest countries in Africa, and has little money in the coffers to spend on the road network or traffic safety measures. 2016 saw the number of road accidents and traffic fatalities in the country increase to 1,557 and 175 respectively in a population of just 4.6 million people.
The European Union has even offered its assistance to the poverty-stricken nation to help them invest in road safety education and improvement initiatives, aiming particularly to tackle the problem of unlicensed drivers getting behind the wheel.
This follows the publication of an EU report which stated that Liberia was losing up to 5% of its GDP every year as a result of its high number of road accidents and traffic-related injuries and deaths.
Heading into North Africa now, the next country on the list of nations with the worst drivers is Libya. The war-torn country has a lot more to worry about than road accidents, however. It has been split by a conflict between factions fighting to gain control of Libya’s oil fields since 2014, but this does mean that the authorities have not been paying any attention to everyday issues like road infrastructure and safety.
In 2015, Libya had the highest rate of road traffic deaths in the world, according to the World Health Organization which recorded 73.4 deaths on its roads per 100,000 people. That's double the 36.2 deaths per 100,000 people recorded by the second place holder, Thailand.
The country is still blighted by serious road accidents, with 242 people killed in 2017 in capital city Tripoli alone.
India is the world’s fastest-growing economy, and this economic success has led to an explosion in the number of cars on its often poorly maintained roads. Current Prime Minister Narendra Modi is in the process of passing new laws that will increase the penalties for road traffic offenses and make safety features mandatory for the often cheap cars manufactured by Indian companies in a bid to tackle the high death rates on the country’s roads.
In 2016, over 150,000 people died on India’s roads in 480,652 traffic accidents. That's the equivalent of 400 deaths every single day. The World Health Organization has even estimated that India’s burgeoning economy is losing about 3% of its GDP every year as a result of its poor road safety record.
Russia may not have the highest rate of road fatalities at roughly 18 per 100,000 people, but it does have more than its fair share of issues when it comes dangerous driving.
There is a thriving black market for official documents including driving licenses, while drivers who have failed their tests the first time around will often be passed the examiner’s telephone number so that they can pay a bribe and make sure they pass next time around!
Bribery is also commonplace when drivers are pulled over for speeding or driving under the influence, which means that they never even go to court for their infractions and are allowed to stay on the road. A study by the International Association of Traffic and Safety Sciences even established a link between corrupt Russian traffic cops and the country’s poor road safety record.
10 The Gambia
The Gambia, a tiny country of just 2 million people on the coast of West Africa, has a road fatality rate of 29 deaths per 100,000 people. Despite the country’s successful tourism industry, its road infrastructure network leaves a great deal to be desired.
In 2017, the Minister of Transport, Works and Infrastructure in The Gambia announced a plan to halve the country’s death rate from traffic accidents by 2020 by investing in road improvements and road safety education in a bid to make Gambian drivers aware of the dangers they pose with their erratic motoring habits.
Police reports indicate that the majority of accidents in The Gambia are caused by irresponsible and careless driving, and the World Health Organization has said that 95% of crashes in the African country were preventable.
9 Burkina Faso
Burkina Faso is another African country with a less than impressive record when it comes to road safety and fatalities. When Minister of Transport, Urban Mobility and Road Safety Souleymane Soulama launched a series of road safety initiatives in 2016, he announced that over 5000 people were killed and 73, 500 people were injured in the nearly 85,000 accidents which took place on the country’s roads between 2010 and 2016.
Drivers ignoring the rules of the road along with speeding and careless driving are among the leading causes of traffic accidents in Burkina Faso.
In a bid to cut the number of accidents, the authorities planned to install speed limiters on vehicles to restrict their speed in rural areas as well as giving police officers more power to stop and charge drivers.
8 Sao Tome and Principe
The tiny island of Sao Tome and Principe, a former Portuguese colony, sits in the Atlantic Ocean 200 miles off the west coast of Africa. It may only be 600 square miles in size and home to a population of less than 200,000 people, but when it comes to road safety it has a record which rivals many larger countries, though not at all in a positive way!
The island’s rather primitive and poorly-maintained road network doesn’t exactly lend itself to safe driving, while the Overseas Security Advisory Council in the US State Department reports that a relaxed approach towards prosecuting or even stopping drivers from committing offenses such as speeding and even reckless driving means that locals have a rather cavalier attitude towards road safety.
Togo is another African country where the poorly maintained roads network has led to a high number of traffic fatalities at 18.3 deaths per 100,000 people according to the most recent World Health Organization figures.
Roads covered in potholes, failed traffic signals and streets that are little more than dirt tracks (especially in rural areas) have all contributed to the high number of road accidents, injuries and fatalities in Togo.
Few roads even have white lines painted down the middle, which leaves drivers guessing as to where they should be driving, particularly during bad weather and at night. Many drivers of cars and motorbikes in Togo don’t even have a license or the proper paperwork needed to safely own and operate a vehicle, including many running a taxi service.
For years, road accidents have been one of the leading causes of death in Mozambique with 31.6 deaths per 100,000 people according to the most recent figures from the World Health Organization.
Even the statistics from the country’s own National Institute of Land Transport show the scale of the problem with the equivalent of five deaths every day on Mozambique’s roads, a situation so serious that the WHO has even described the situation in the east African country as a public health matter.
Between 2010 to 2016 there were 10,000 deaths and 13,000 serious injuries on Mozambique’s poorly-maintained roads, leading to plans by the local authorities to try and reduce road fatalities by half by making practical infrastructure improvements as well as investing in road safety education initiatives.
The Rwandan National Police have launched their own plan to tackle the problems caused by bad drivers in the central African country. At the start of the new initiative in May 2017, it was revealed that 70% of the road accidents since the turn of the year had been caused by or involved motorcyclists, cyclists and pedestrians, a factor which undoubtedly contributes to Rwanda’s high road fatality rate of 32.1 deaths per 100,000 people according to the World Health Organization.
Motorcyclists in the country are particularly reckless, ignoring pedestrian crossings, riding drunk and overtaking in dangerous locations, which is why the RNP are targeting motorcycle owners in a bid to reduce fatalities on their roads, through education and stiffer penalties for traffic offenses.
Leaving Africa (for now at least) the next country on the list of nations with the worst drivers in the world is Iran with 32 road fatalities per 100,000 people according World Health Organization figures.
Every year, 20,000 people are killed in traffic accidents and 800,000 are injured on Iran’s roads. 75% of the victims are men and the majority are aged between 25 and 40.
While reckless driving and speeding contribute to the country’s high number of road fatalities, there is another major reason for the fact that so many accidents in Iran result in deaths and serious injuries: the Pride. The Pride is an Iranian car made by local manufacturer SAIPA. It is cheap and readily available to even families with little disposable income, but it has virtually no safety features.
3 Central African Republic
The Central African Republic has faced decades of civil war and conflict which has led to the country’s road system, as well as dozens of other public services, being neglected for many years. The crumbling transport infrastructure combined with a reckless attitude towards road safety led to 1500 fatalities in 2016 according to a World Health Organization report. That's 32.4 deaths per 100,000 people.
In July of last year, one single accident killed 78 people when a truck caused a massive pile-up on a highway 190 miles north of the Central African Republic’s capital city, Bangui.
According to local police reports, the accident was caused because the truck, which was heavily overloaded, was speeding. These are both common contributory factors in many of the country’s most serious accidents.
Deaths and injuries from road accidents in Tanzania are still increasing despite efforts by local law enforcement to take a tougher line on those committing traffic offenses in the African nation.
There were 5,219 road accidents in Tanzania during 2016, an increase of 35% on the previous year’s total. Traffic fatalities increased from 316 in 2015 to 325 a year later. World Health Organization figures show that there are 32.9 deaths per 100,000 people on Tanzania’s roads every year, putting it in the top six countries in the world for fatal car accidents.
Figures from local police in capital Dar es Salaam also show that the number of people charged with traffic offenses in 2016 was 770,000 - a 50% increase from the 2015 figure - which does suggest that the authorities are taking the issue seriously.
1 The Democratic Republic Of The Congo
The central African nation known as the DRC, or the Democratic Republic of the Congo, is the second largest country on the continent with a population of 79 million people. Every year, 33.2 deaths per 100,000 occur on the country’s poorly maintained and under-funded roads, according to World Health Organization statistics.
Even roads in the DRC’s capital city of Kinshasa are in poor condition. Outside of the main towns and cities, streets are often little more than muddy tracks and impassable when the weather is wet.
When locals drive on those roads at high speeds as often happens, that is quite literally an accident waiting to happen. In an effort to tackle this problem, the police in the DRC have introduced a traffic robot called Tamoke at some of the most dangerous junctions in a bid to better control congestion.
Sources: www.statista.com, www.economist.com