Is Driving in Russia Safer than in America?

Taxi crash

From Samsebeskazal’s LiveJournal:

Statistics on traffic accidents in New York for 2012

For comparison, I have added data for Moscow for the same period. Some of the numbers make sense, but others raise questions.

  New York Moscow
Number of accidents 225,878 12,010
Number killed in an accident 293 810
Of these, in New York: 165 pedestrians, 22 cyclists, 76 drivers, and 30 passengers
Injured in an accident 62,655 14,000
Of these, in New York: 15,698 pedestrians, 4,855 cyclists, 19,584 drivers and 22,518 passengers.

For comparison, data on the cities:

New York Moscow
Number of residents (data for 2011) 8,244,910 11,503,501
Number of vehicles (data for 2011) 1,961,000 4,187,532

[Note: data tabulated to ease comprehension]

It is unclear why there are such a large number of reported accidents and casualties in New York, or should the question be why the number for Moscow is so small? Just from my perspective, you seem to run into accidents on the roads much more often in Russia than in the USA. In two years, I have seen maybe twenty accidents. 12,010 accidents divided by 365, you get 33 accidents per day in the whole of Moscow (with 619 in New York). It’s a little difficult to believe these numbers. There are twice as many vehicles in Moscow as well. It may be that we need to know how they collect data and how they provide their records. The Russian statistics are, as always, not very informative, and show a mythical increase or decline of particular variables. If you find more plausible figures, please paste them in the comments, and I will correct the post.

I can agree with the number of people killed. In Russia, the quality of driving is worse, people break the rules of the road and the speed limit more often. Still, perhaps, the age of Russian cars is greater, and therefore they are more dangerous during an accident (I’m talking about cars made in Russia). Other reasons for the high accident rate and mortality lie in the low efficiency of the traffic police, high levels of corruption, a terrible system of training for new drivers in many driving schools, and the process of getting a driving licence. In New York people also drive badly, but violations of the rules of the road are not so serious, and there are not so many of them. It is impossible to get a driving licence in exchange for a bribe, and serious punishments and fines for offenders are very good at controlling drivers. There is a very effective points system which increases insurance premiums. In Russia, your insurance only goes up if there is an accident in which you personally are to blame. Here [in New York], it goes up with any serious violation of the rules of the road or any accident (even if it’s not your fault). The only exception is if someone goes into the back of you, or crashes into your parked car. Plus, people are less aggressive behind the wheel. Despite this, it is considered that driving in New York is madder than anywhere else in America. Personally, this “mad” driving sends me to sleep. But for me, it’s better here than it was in St. Pete’s and much better than in Moscow.

For the number of cars, the figure is very reasonable. There are lots of commuters both here [in New York] and there [in Moscow]. In Moscow, they come from neighbouring regions, in New York from neighbouring states. Quite a few New Yorkers have cars registered outside the city limits. Therefore, this figure about the number of cars on the streets is very approximate. Once again, just from my perspective, it seems that in New York there are fewer cars on the streets. I have not yet ended up in a traffic jam in New York as bad as those that develop regularly in Moscow.

New York has the fewest cars per person of any American town. According to the statistics, only 45% of its residents own a vehicle, and only 30% have them in order to get to work. For comparison, in Los Angeles, 83% of people have their own car. The majority of New Yorkers prefer to use public transport or bikes. Fewer cars = fewer accidents = fewer killed and injured.

An effective tool in managing the number of cars in New York is the cost of insurance, which depends on the region. In Manhattan insurance costs the least, while Brooklyn is the most expensive. Premiums can be five times higher. People also turn away from cars because of problems with parking, traffic jams, high tolls in bridges and tunnels (up to $13), incredibly expensive petrol, and difficulties when driving at peak times without passengers. While the buses in the morning have their own lanes, you get stuck in traffic. Some of the dedicated lanes allow cars with two passengers and a driver to use them at certain times.

There are a few more interesting statistics from the data for December 2012 (the monthly data is more detailed):

Just for the month of December, in New York there were 17,096 traffic accidents.
Six drivers, four passengers and 165 pedestrians were killed.
1,435 drivers, 1,597 passengers, 211 cyclists and 1,290 pedestrians were injured.

Some of the causes for the accidents:
Lack of attention by the driver – 2,223
Failure to maintain distance – 998
Failure to give way – 817
Failure to follow the speed limit – 251
Driving while under the influence of alcohol – 141
Aggressive driving – 65
Falling asleep at the wheel – 37
Fatigue – 18
Under the influence of drugs – 4
Talking on the phone without a headset – 5
Talking on the phone with a headset – 2
Use of other electronic devices – 6

Some of the types of vehicles involved in accidents:
Cars – 17,962
Offroaders – 6,630
Taxis – 1,395
Buses – 506
Motorcycles – 77
Emergency vehicles – 73
Fire engines – 26
Scooters – 15


Aggregate data has not yet been prepared, so I had to work it out manually.

Comments from Samsebeskazal’s LiveJournal:


Something’s not right with the Moscow statistics.
In our village for 10 months in 2012:
From the beginning of 2012 in the city of Ekaterinburg there were 45,907 road traffic accidents. In 1,283 accidents, 139 people were killed and 1,675 were injured.
There are about 1.5 million inhabitants.


It’s all very simple. You can chuck any statistics for Russia in the bin.
That goes for any field, not just road accidents.


20 accidents per day? Ha, you can easily multiply this by 100.


Numbers for Moscow.
Maybe it’s the number of accidents that caused injuries? In Novosibirsk, for example, the number of accidents is around 10 per day with casualties, or around 200 without.‎‏‎

Ivan Bekineev: (responding to above)

Denis [name of previous commenter], here are some statistics for yesterday, just in Moscow. You can extrapolate for yourself for the year at the same rate. 3500 registered accidents, in which 26 had casualties, and those will go into the yearly statistics. According to the traffic police, the first number is really twice as high, it’s just that people don’t want to wait for the police and sort it out themselves. Of course, yesterday, the snow was terrible, and there are normally half as many accidents, but the proportions are the same.

samsebeskazal: (also responding to previous commenter)

More than likely, that’s right. But where can you get the total number?


Just this morning, they were talking about 3,500 accidents yesterday (snow and freezing rain). I think 12,000 severely underestimates the number of accidents.


It is possible that the illogical disparity in the number of accidents is due to the fact that in Russia it is easier not to register an accident, and simply head home (in the comments, people are talking about only accidents with injuries making it into the statistics, they’re more visible). In turn, the disparity in the number of people injured may be linked to the fact that Americans more often seek medical care even in the case of small personal injuries.. It’s just psychology.

Written by Joe Innes

Editor of russiaSLAM, Joe Innes, loves all things Russian (well - most things!) and is currently living in St. Petersburg. Please feel free to get in touch by Twitter, Facebook, or by using the contact form on the "About" page.

  • rentrule12

    this is pretty funny

  • Anonymous

    The guy is confusing New York State and New York City…

    The amount of accidents he got for is from which is for the state of New York with a population of over 19 millions…