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Cost of crashes increasing, but repair possibilities might, too

Friday, March 7, 2008 - 01:00
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Many shops probably are affiliated with AAA, and the automobile club has revealed some staggering numbers about the cost of crashes, which are increasing, shedding some light on new repair work you could capitalize on.

The societal cost of crashes is at $164.2 billion annually, nearly two and a half times greater than the $67.6 billion price tag for congestion, according to a new report released by AAA. Furthermore, the cost in Chicagoland, is $8.378 billion for crashes, which amounts to an annual per person cost of $887. The total cost per person for congestion in Chicagoland was $487.

The report — “Crashes vs. Congestion: What’s the Cost to Society?” — demonstrates that traffic safety issues warrant increased attention from the public and policymakers, particularly as Congress prepares to reauthorize federal transportation programs in 2009.

“Most Americans will be surprised to learn that motor vehicle crashes cost more than the congestion they face on their daily commute to work,” says AAA Chicago regional president Brad Roeber. “Great work has been done by the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) to quantify the costs of congestion, raise awareness for the problem and offer solutions. We feel safety deserves a similar focus.”

According to the study conducted by Cambridge Systematics, the $164.2 billion cost for crashes equates to an annual per person cost of $1,051, compared to $430 per person annually for congestion. These safety costs include medical, emergency and police services, property damage, lost productivity, and quality of life, among other things.

The report calculates the costs of crashes for the same metropolitan areas covered by the annual Urban Mobility Report conducted by TTI. In every metropolitan area studied, from very large to small, the results showed crash costs exceeded congestion. For very large urban areas (more than 3 million), crash costs are nearly double those of congestion. Those costs rise to more than seven times congestion costs in small urban areas (less than 500,000) where congestion is less of a challenge.

“Nearly 43,000 people die on the nation’s roadways each year,” says Roeber. “Yet, the annual tally of motor vehicle-related fatalities barely registers as a blip in most people’s minds. It’s time for motor vehicle crashes to be viewed as the public health threat they are. If there were two jumbo jets crashing every week, the government would ground all planes until we fixed the problem. Yet, we’ve come to accept this sort of death toll with car crashes.”

In Chicagoland, the study cited 794 fatalities due to vehicle crashes in 2005, with 85,089 injuries.

The report includes several recommendations to improve safety, including support for a national safety goal of cutting surface transportation fatalities in half by 2025, as recommended by the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission.

For additional information and to download a full copy of the report, visit

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