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Which Country Has the Worst Drivers in the World?

Fewer people are dying on the roads of France than in the last 65 years, but what about in the rest of the world?
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Arc de Triomphe, Paris

An article published in France's Le Monde yesterday announced that the number of traffic fatalities in the country in March was 26.8 percent lower than those last March—this, on top of a previous announcement that in 2012, such fatalities hit their lowest point since the government started keeping track in 1948.

That's a curious landmark for anyone who's ever driven or walked or generally tried to not die on a narrow medieval European street, but it begs the question of where France stands compared to the rest of the world.

The Washington Post had a nice piece about the cost of traffic fatalities back in January. Each year, 1.3 million people die in car accidents, they reported, and traffic deaths cost low- and middle-income countries at least a billion dollars every year. The focus is generally on big countries like China, Russia, and India (the top 10 offenders account for nearly half of the world's traffic fatalities each year), but what if you balance those traffic deaths with the size of the population?

The map below uses data from the World Health Organization, most of it from 2010, and while you still see some of the big deadly countries in the danger zone here, a number of slightly smaller countries pop out in this measurement. Iran, Venezuela, and South Africa all reported around 35 fatalities per 100,000 citizens in 2010, and the deadliest countries are the Dominican Republic and tiny Niue. What, you've never heard of Niue? Fine, neither had we. In fact, we couldn't even get a map layer for it. But if you zoom in to the swatch of Pacific Ocean about 1,500 miles northeast of New Zealand (almost due east of Fiji), you'll find an island nation with a whopping score of 68.3. Of course, balanced against its population of around 1,400 people, that only adds up to a grand total fatality count of ... one. One single person.

Still, at least now you've heard of Niue.