WILMINGTON, DE – The annual societal cost of traffic crashes is $299.5 billion, more than three times the $97.7 billion cost of congestion, according to a new report released by AAA.  

AAA's "Crashes vs. Congestion – What's the Cost to Society?" report found that the overall cost of crashes ($299.5 billion) equates to an annual per-person cost of $1,522, compared to $590 per person annually for congestion ($97.7 billion overall). The figure is based on the Federal Highway Administration's comprehensive costs for traffic fatalities and injuries that assign a dollar value to a variety of components, including medical and emergency services, lost earnings and household production, property damage, and lost quality of life, among other things.

"Crashes vs. Congestion – What's the Cost to Society?" highlights the far-reaching economic impacts traffic safety crashes have on the U.S. and urges policymakers to make safety a top priority. 

"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," said Jim Lardear, director of public and government affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic. 

Lardear said funding is needed for safety improvements that can save lives, including such low-cost measures as guide rail, reflective pavement markers, and improved signs and signals.

Additionally, Lardear said, "the political will is needed to pass legislation such as a ban on texting while driving, and a primary seat belt law in Pennsylvania, since safer driving behavior is also a piece of the puzzle."

The report calculates the costs of crashes for the same metropolitan areas covered by the annual Urban Mobility Report conducted by the Texas Transportation Institute. The results showed crash costs exceeded congestion in every metropolitan area studied, from very large to small. For very large urban areas (populations of more than 3 million), crash costs are nearly double those of congestion. Those costs rise to nearly six times congestion costs in small urban areas (populations less than 500,000) where motorists face less congested conditions.

"Almost 33,000 people – 635 per week – die on U.S. roadways each year and that's unacceptable," said Lardear. "While the decline in traffic fatalities in recent years signifies a positive trend, our work is far from over. Continued progress will require active and focused leadership, improved communication and collaboration, and an investment in data collection and evaluation to make sure we're addressing the nation's most serious safety challenges."