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The expenses incurred from vehicle collisions on the nation’s roads, almost $300 billion annually, are more than three times the $97.7 billion that congestion costs, according to a report released by AAA.

“The burdens associated with congestion are top of mind for many Americans as they travel to and from work each day,” said AAA Chicago president Brad Roeber. “However, at $300 billion annually, crashes cost our society more than three times the amount of congestion. 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.”

The study, conducted by Cambridge Systematics, found the annual, per person cost of the nation’s vehicle accidents to be approximately $1,522, while congestion costs only $590 per person by comparison.

Congestion Costs

To determine the expense of congestion, researchers used data from the Texas Transportation Institute’s (TTI) Urban Mobility Report, which estimates how much congestion delays commuters, the extent of congestion during “rush hour” and the rest of the typical work day, and the economic impact delays have on businesses. Researchers noted the effect is not uniform, since businesses that rely on prompt or rapid deliveries are likely to suffer more than their counterparts from congestion, but others lose productivity as well. At the very least, they may indirectly experience decreased effectiveness and lost work hours due to employees caught in traffic.

Crashes and Collisions

Researchers calculating the economic price of crashes took into account not only the direct cost of repairing vehicles and treating injured drivers and passengers, but also looked at other expenses. For example, crashes occupy medical and emergency services and may reduce quality of life and household productivity.

Lost earnings may add financial strain, require long-term care, or impose funeral expenses and permanently reduce a household’s earning ability if an accident is fatal. Higher accident rates can also impose increased car insurance costs on individuals, families and residents of geographical areas.

Crash and Congestion Comparisons

Roeber noted almost 33,000 people die on the nation’s roads each year, which amounts to 635 per week. As a result, AAA suggests additional steps must be taken to promote traffic safety, and that the issue is more pressing than the problem of congestion.

The report found that, even in large cities where traffic congestion is worst, crash costs were nearly double those of congestion. Examining smaller urban areas revealed a larger disparity, with crashes costing as much as six times more than congestion.