With so much attention focused on the sorry state of the nation's roads and bridges and lawmakers' attempts to pass a long-term highway bill, the impact of traffic collisions can get lost. AAA tried to rectify that problem last week when it released a new report finding that traffic crashes cost $299.5 billion in a single year. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among people ages 5-34 in the United States, according to the report. AAA used calculations from the Federal Highway Administration to put the cost of a single motor vehicle fatality at $6 million. A single injury costs about $126,000.
There are a number of ways to address this problem, among them making safety a "national priority," according to AAA. Seat belt laws, impaired driving countermeasures, and graduated driver licensing systems also would make a difference.
Politically, however, AAA President Robert Darbelnet found the critical button to push in Congress. "This report further underscores the importance of a long-term, multi-year federal transportation bill that will provide the necessary and sustained investments that lead to better and safer roads for all Americans," he said.
Last week, we saw a lot of politically-barbed bluster about infrastructure from both Republicans and Democrats in Congress. The Senate rejected, in turn, the president's infrastructure jobs plan and then the Republican alternative because each bill contained provisions that the opposing party could not accept. It is a disservice to the citizens who bear the costs of traffic collisions and congestion.
Are safety concerns overlooked in transportation policy discussions? Would a long-term highway bill make a real difference in reducing traffic collisions? What policies would have the biggest impact on reducing car crashes? Is there the political will to enact those changes? Can a focus on safety help the broader effort to enact a long-term highway bill?