Picture: Steven Gottlieb/Getty
Picture: Steven Gottlieb/Getty

Dangerous driving has been linked to state corruption in a new study.

We've all had the thought when we're abroad: the drivers here are more reckless and less cautious than the ones back home. It turns out this small-island way of thinking might be on to something.

In an article for CityMetric, James O'Malley looked at driving in Romania and the level of corruption. Road fatalities are particular high in Romania.

In 2013 the country suffered 9.3 road deaths per 100,000 citizens, compared to 2.8 in the UK in the same year. O'Malley also studied data from the World Justice Project and the World Health Organisation, and found a pattern in a country's level of corruption and the number of traffic accidents that happened there.

Picture: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Numerous studies show that the level of a wealth in a country consistently connects with the level of corruption and that there is a correlation between this and the number of road fatalities. Put simply, in poorer countries with fewer cars there are fewer road fatalities. As these countries get wealthier the number of deaths increases until the level of wealth breaches a critical amount and begins to decline again. Corruption follows the same pattern, flowering the most when a country is in between a level of poverty and wealth.

O'Malley argues that the link between corruption and bad driving is the lack of meritocracy.

Countries succeed when their economies aren’t based upon the exploitation of the people by a small group of elites, and where there are political mechanisms that help exploit talent and ideas. In that way, anyone who invents a new technology or a more efficient method of producing something knows that the fruits of their labour won’t just be expropriated by a dictator.

In corrupt countries people have less respect for the rule of law. O'Malley observed that although traffic police were present in downtown Bucharest, they were outright ignored by motorists. This is because legal institutions are considered weak, or else because motorists know they can bribe their way out of any traffic violation.

Picture: Kuni Takahashi/Getty Images

As well as finding a correlation between corruption and road deaths, O'Malley also found data that showed a shared pattern of road deaths and how much citizens trusted each other.

There have been numerous studies into correlations between the number of traffic accidents and government corruption.

They have produced a variety of conclusions: the relationship isn't always as simple as that, for instance cultural factors such as intellectual autonomy can mitigate the effects of corruption on the enforcement of the law, and accidents are not unheard of in wealthy countries.

But it does make sense that corruption produces lawlessness, so do make sure to look both ways the next time you're visiting a "fantastically corrupt" country.

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