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50+: Live Better, Longer

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Vehicle Accident Deaths Cost States Billions

CDC Says Costs for Medical Care and Work Loss Were Highest in California, Texas, and Florida
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

May 11, 2011 -- Deaths caused by motor vehicle crashes cost an estimated $41 billion in the U.S. in medical and work-loss expenses in the CDC’s most recent annual estimate.

The estimates are from 2005, the most recent year for which cost and crash data are available.

The analysis shows that just 10 of the states account for almost half the total, or $20.4 billion.

The states with the highest medical and work loss costs for the year 2005 were:

  1. California $4.16 billion
  2. Texas $3.5 billion
  3. Florida $3.16 billion
  4. Georgia $1.55 billion
  5. Pennsylvania $1.52 billion
  6. North Carolina $1.50 billion
  7. New York $1.33 billion
  8. Illinois $1.32 billion
  9. Ohio $1.23 billion
  10. Tennessee $1.15 billion

The CDC says the analysis was not designed to explain the variation in state costs.

CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden, MD, MPH, says in a news release that deaths from motor vehicle crashes are often preventable. He says the use of seat belts, graduated driver’s license programs, child safety seats, and motorcycle helmets could save lives and reduce health care costs.

The CDC released fact sheets for each state to coincide with the launch of a program called Decade of Action for Road Safety. The period 2011-2020 has been designated by the United Nations as the Decade of Road Safety, calling for an emphasis on protecting lives on roads around the world.

“It’s tragic to hear that anyone dies on our nation’s roads,” says the CDC’s Linda Degutis, DrPH, MSN. Degutis is director of the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. "Child passenger safety laws and comprehensive graduated driver licensing laws are proven to protect young lives.”

Degutis says states should be encouraged to “strengthen and enforce these laws to help keep more of our young people safe.”

Safety Recommendations for States

The CDC offers the following recommendations for states to consider as strategies:

  • Enact seat belt laws that allow motorists to be stopped and cited for not wearing seat belts. Seat belts reduce the risk of death to those riding in the front seat by about half.
  • Enact strong child passenger safety policies that require children to be placed in age- and size-appropriate safety and booster seats while riding in vehicles.
  • Establish comprehensive graduated driver license systems that are proven to reduce teen crashes. Such requirements help new drivers gain experience under lower-risk conditions by granting driving privileges in stages. The most comprehensive graduated driver licensing systems have been associated with up to 40% decreases in crashes among 16-year-old drivers.
  • Universal motorcycle helmet laws, which require all riders to wear helmets. Helmet use can reduce the risk of death in a motorcycle crash by more than one-third and reduce the risk of brain injury by 69%.

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