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Monday, August 08, 2011

Highway Deaths are Expensive

The Center for Disease Control in Atlanta has produced a study showing the cost of highway deaths in the United States and the figures are very high. The study looked crash data for 2005 and determined that the total cost from highway crash deaths in the United States for that year was $41 billion.

The study found that more than half of the highway deaths in the US occur in ten states; California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Texas.

  • Texas ranked second with $3.50 billion in costs.
  • Florida ranked third with $3.16 billion in costs.
  • New York ranked seventh with $1.33 billion in costs.

The cost study only took medical and work loss costs into account; it didn’t include property damage, legal costs, insurance etc. The figures were compiled using the CDC’s Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS), which is an online, interactive system that provides reports of injury-related data. The work loss costs were based on the “total estimated salary, fringe benefits, and value of household work that an average person—of the same age and sex as the person who died—would be expected to earn over the remainder of his or her lifetime. “ Since young drivers are disproportionately affected in the total motor vehicle death rate, the total loss of potential work income for them over their lifetimes was much higher.

The CDC’s WISQARS system allows a user to generate a map of each individual state to view the motor vehicle death rate by county. One might think that the large cities and interstate highways would have the highest death rate but the maps support the fact that rural highways are the deadliest highways in America. Viewing the state maps by county, it is easy to see that the death rate in large urban areas is far lower than that for rural counties.

The highway death rate has fallen over the past several years and many attribute that to the economy and gas prices however, the CDC points to traffic safety initiatives such as seat belt laws, better child protective seats along with better education on their use, and graduated driver licensing laws for teens as having a much greater impact on the reduction of the death rate.

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