Every 10 seconds someone is injured in a car crash and every 12 minutes someone dies. Now, a new study by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) finds that in a one-year period, the cost of medical care and loss productivity from motor-vehicle injuries is more than $99 billion. This averages to nearly $500 for each licensed driver in the U.S. That $99 billion breaks down to $70 billion for fatal and nonfatal injuries in motor vehicles, $12 billion for motorcyclists, $10 billion for pedestrians, and $5 billion for bicyclists. Medical expenses account for $17 billion of the total.
This data was based on 2005 numbers, which were the most current available on injuries and cost.
The study also found that more men were killed or injured (70 percent) than women (52 percent) in motor-vehicle accidents; injuries and deaths in men represented 74 percent of all costs. Teens represented 28 percent of fatal and nonfatal injuries and 31 percent of the costs. Motorcyclists represented six percent of fatalities and injuries, but accounted for 12 percent of the costs due to more severe injuries.
Overall, the number of fatalities caused by vehicle crashes has declined in recent years. In 2008, 37,261 people were killed, which was the lowest number in decades. And it looks like the number of fatalities will be even lower for 2009. Still, there is more that can be done to prevent motor-vehicle accidents, deaths, and injuries. The CDC notes a few policies that would help reduce costs and save lives, including:
- Improving teen driver safety with programs such as graduated driver licensing (GDL), which limits the time and conditions under which a teen can drive in the early stages.
- Increasing safety-belt use by making laws that mandate usage primary. This means that a driver or passenger can be pulled over solely for not buckling up. Currently the safety belt usage rate is 84 percent. The CDC notes that if the rate were to increase to 90 percent in all states, the country would save more than $5 billion in costs.
- Improving child passenger safety by strengthening the laws governing the required use of child seats, educating parents on their correct use and installation, and distributing seats to those who can’t afford them.
- Reducing drunk driving deaths by implementing stricter policies, such as increased sobriety checkpoints and the use of ignition interlock devices for those convicted of DUI.
Read our take on the issue with our report on how Consumers Union feels the automotive safety net could be improved.—Liza Barth