We here at Microkhan are avid fans of Robert Young Pelton’s World’s Most Dangerous Places series, in part because we never cease being amazed by the man’s utter ballsiness. (Algeria sans security in the thick of civil war? Really?) But the lure in Pelton’s work isn’t just his bravado—it’s his frankness about which travels threats are overhyped, and which should truly strike fear into a wanderer’s heart. And high atop Pelton’s list is none other than the humble minibus, the sole means of motorized transport for millions upon millions of denizens of the developing world. Such vehicles, he warns, are far more hazardous to a traveler’s health than more reviled perils such as yellow fever, thieves, or cobras. Just check out the frightening WHO statistics: 1.2 million people die each year in traffic accidents, and another 50 million are gravely injured. And the worse a nation’s roads and law enforcement are, the higher your odds of meeting a grisly end while motoring.
But what determines the lethality of a nation’s ground transport? The poorest countries are not, in fact, those with the highest traffic fatality rates, due to the fact that they have limited cars on the roads. No, the worst offenders are those nations just wealthy enough to have lots of vehicles, but poor enough that little money is spent on safety. And according to a 2006 study, things don’t get better until per-capita income exceeds $11,500 (PDF):
We argue that as a country moves through the various stages of development it can be expected that, beyond some threshold level of per capita income, increases in per capita income will tend to push down the traffic fatality rate as the rate of decline in fatalities per vehicle begins to fully offset the rising motorization rate. Regardless, for any given level of per capita income, the rate of traffic fatalities can be expected to be greater the more unequally distributed is a country’s national income both because relative inequality makes it more difficult for a society to agree on a distribution of the tax burden necessary to fund traffic safety interventions and because inequality of income causes the different segments of a society to enter the roadways in different fashions.
According to the $11,500 Rule, then, Kazakhstan must be a truly dangerous place to go a-drivin’. Can anyone confirm or deny?