I’m sure most of us have heard studies complaining about America’s traffic and how much it costs Americans to sit in congestion. While that’s bad, it’s not nearly the cost of car wrecks.
Earlier this month, the American Automobile Association (AAA) released a study, Crashes v. Congestion — What’s The Cost To Society? The study found that the annual societal cost of car wrecks is $300 billion, more than three times the $98 billion cost of congestion. That comes out to $1,522 annually.
Some of the more detailed findings were even more surprising, particularly the findings regarding traffic fatalities. In 2009, traffic crashes killed 33,808 people in the US — 93 per day or nearly 4 every hour. While we’ve made improvements, motor vehicle accidents are still the leading cause of death among ages 5-34 and, in terms of years of life lost, rank third, behind heart disease and cancer. And based on Federal Highway Administration data, which assigns values to 11 components (including property damage, lost earnings, lost household production, medical costs, legal costs, and pain and lost quality of life), the average cost of a fatality is $6 million. These are huge costs indeed.
But we owe thanks to AAA for going further than just making the findings. The report is designed to bring awareness to the problem and to help advocate for increase traffic safety. That means helping encourage drivers to be more safe, but also advocating to our legislators and other government officials to quit ignoring how big a problem this is.