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Study: Traffic accidents cost $299B per year

Tuesday - 12/13/2011, 2:35pm  ET

Hank Silverberg, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - It's pretty clear to most people that congestion on the roadways costs everyone in time and money.

But new research indicates crashes are much more expensive.

Crashes involving injuries or fatalities cost Americans more than $299 billion a year, or about $1,500 per person. That's three times the comparative cost of congestion at $97.7 billion, according to a new survey released by AAA.

The report publicized at a briefing on Capitol Hill Tuesday is part of a AAA campaign to improve highway safety. The organization wants tighter laws on the use of cellphones and seat belts in vehicles, along with stricter drunken driving laws and graduated driver's licenses.

About 33,000 people die on America's roads each year, AAA says. But Jake Nelson, director of traffic safety advocacy and research for the organization, says much more attention is being paid to lost time and wages stemming from people stopped in traffic jams, and to how much it will cost to get rid of congestion.

"What we're asking is that traffic safety be given the same attention as congestion," Nelson says. "Let's address both of these issues hand in hand".

Researcher Bernardo Kleiner of Cambridge Systematics, Inc. -- which conducted the survey -- says the study didn't take into account emotional costs.

"Everybody sees that crash on the side of the road," says Kleiner. "I don't know too many people who have asked as they are driving, 'I wonder what caused that and what can be done to have prevented that.'"

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(Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)