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Harry Cassin
Publisher and Editor

Andy Spalding
Senior Editor

Jessica Tillipman
Senior Editor

Bill Steinman
Senior Editor

Richard L. Cassin
Editor at Large

Elizabeth K. Spahn
Editor Emeritus

Cody Worthington
Contributing Editor

Julie DiMauro
Contributing Editor

Thomas Fox
Contributing Editor

Marc Alain Bohn
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Bill Waite
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Russell A. Stamets
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Richard Bistrong
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Eric Carlson
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In high-graft countries, the roads are a bloodbath

Over the years, we’ve looked at the correlation between corruption and personal security, air safety, environmental degradation, risks of war, debt problems, and general personal misery. Now let’s look at corruption and road safety.

The most dangerous countries (measured by road fatalities per 100,000 motor vehicles) finishing with the worst are: Central African Republic, Sudan, Benin, Burundi, Guinea, Eritrea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, São Tomé and Príncipe, and Sierra Leone.

Their average rank on the Corruption Perceptions Index is 129 (out of 168 countries).

Individually they rank this way:

Central African Republic 145

Sudan 165

Benin 83

Burundi 150

Guinea 158

Eritrea 154

Democratic Republic of the Congo 147

Ethiopia 103

São Tomé and Príncipe 66

Sierra Leone 119

The safest countries to drive in? Again measured by fatalities per 100,000 vehicles on the road are: Malta, Norway, Switzerland, Iceland, Sweden, Spain, Denmark, United Kingdom, Finland, and Germany.

On the CPI their average rank is 12.

Individually they rank:

Malta 37

Norway 5

Switzerland 7

Iceland 13

Sweden 3

Spain 36

Denmark 1

United Kingdom 10

Finland 2

Germany 10

What’s behind the correlation between corruption and road safety? In compliant countries, road surfaces are in better shape, lane and hazard markings are clear, traffic lights work, and people tend to respect the rules and obey the police.

In corrupt countries traffic is more chaotic: roads (and vehicles) are generally in worse shape, highways are dark, signage is missing or confusing, intersections are wild. There’s also less respect for the rule of law. Drivers are more likely to make up their own rules and speed limits, putting everyone else in danger.

Most travelers have seen the danger on the road in corrupt countries. They may remember a terrifying taxi ride from the airport to their hotel, for example. They’re glad to have survived, and the experience becomes cocktail-party chatter.

For people who live in those countries, there’s no escape from the graft and the roadway danger.


Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog. He can be contacted here.

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  1. Although I understand the point you are trying to make, there is a difference between correlation and causation. Strangely the sales of sour cream in the US correlate to deaths in motorbike accidents, and there is also a correlation between the number of people falling into a pool and drowning in the US and films in which Nicholas Cage appeared in. Both correlations are spurious as (hopefully) there is no actual causal link. Corruption clearly does help but before jumping to the conclusion that corruption is a casual link, I would suggest you also have to count in the GDP of the relevant country, average wage, money spent on road building & road maintenance, rules on who can drive etc.

  2. Seven out of the top 8 most successful countries noted above are Germanic. Spain and Malta are much farther out. What can LatAm and Africa learn from this? The common good over the individual ego is the Germanic way. Unfortunately for LatAm and Africa the individual ego over the common good has been the way.

    I am hopeful that a new generation of LatAm and African prosecutors with the support of the West will begin transforming these two enormous continents into engines for 21st century global growth. The recent prosecutorial successes of Brazil and Guatemala suggest that there is reason for hope in LatAm.

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