The Astounding Financial Cost of Auto Accidents

The freedom of the open road! It’s quintessentially American – but it comes at a cost.

Living in a country where the car is the primary means of transportation for the vast majority of people and by simply looking at the traffic in busy areas, it’s easy to see how so many auto accidents occur every year.

To put this into perspective, auto accidents are the leading cause of death for children, teens and young adults…or ages 5 to 34. Each year, over 30,000 people are killed in auto accidents in the U.S. In fact, by the time I finish writing this sentence, it’s statistically probable that another auto accident has occurred somewhere in the United States.

All of this comes at a cost of course, which is usually absorbed through insurance. While you ultimately can’t put a price tag on human life, we can estimate the financial cost of auto accidents. These costs can be broken down into several different categories – property damage, medical costs and lost wages are the primary ones.

According to a study released by AAA late last year, car crashes in the U.S. cost an estimated $300 billion annually – which is over 3 times the cost of traffic congestion on the nation’s highways.

“Traffic crashes really need to be moved to the forefront of the American discussion as the public safety (and) health threat that they are,” comments Troy Green, spokesman for American Automobile Association.

And not only are traffic fatalities tragic for loved ones, they’re expensive as well. AAA estimates that each fatality cost an average of $6 million dollars when you factor in everything from medical and emergency services to lost earnings. Even injuries can be quite expensive, costing around $126,000 on average.

These are astounding numbers indeed!

According to safety analyst Mark Rosenker, it would take a small airliner crash every day for 360 days to even begin to match this cost.

In Colorado alone, it’s estimated that auto accident fatalities cost approximately $623 million each year – only $5 million is attributed to medical costs while the remaining $618 million accounts for lost wages according to figures from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

Take a quick look at the image below for a breakdown of these costs by type of road user:

How can the frequency and cost of auto accidents be reduced?

Proper education and targeted enforcement can help but ultimately, it’s the responsibility of each driver on the road to be aware of their surroundings and drive carefully.

New safety technologies can help too. Electronic stability control, or ESC, helps improve a vehicle’s stability by automatically applying the brakes during skids. One estimate says if ESC is adopted universally, nearly 10,000 lives could be saved each year.

Short-range radar sensors can help too, which warn the driver if a collision is imminent and activates the airbags and seat restraints.

Ultimately, technology won’t solve the problem. Addressing the issues of speeding, drunk driving and distracted driving will also need to be considered.

In the end though, it will take more awareness on the part of drivers on the road.

Don’t follow too closely, be careful when changing lanes and watch your speed. If it’s raining, slow down. But more importantly, wear your seatbelt. Statistics have shown time and again that wearing a seatbelt is by far the easiest, most effective way to preventing vehicle fatalities.

If you or a loved one has been involved in an auto accident caused by someone else’s negligence, you may be qualified to receive compensation for medical costs, property damage, lost wages and pain and suffering. To learn more, browse around our car accident knowledge center or contact Denver auto accident attorneys at the Babcock Law Firm today for a free consultation.