110th Anniversary of First Auto Crash Death in the U.S.

September marks the 110th anniversary of the first American killed by an automobile crash. Mr. H.H. Bliss was killed in NYC in September 1899. See Nader, Unsafe at any speed, p. 295.

The continuing need for attention to this subject is written in dry (without the tears) government statistics.

    • Historically in the U.S., motor vehicle crashes have killed nearly 3.5 million people and injured more than 300 million. This is more than 3 times the number of Americans killed and 200 times the number wounded in all wars since 1776. Since 1978, when NHTSA began counting fatalities, more than 1,350,000 people have died along U.S. roads.
    • Currently, in crashes each year about 40,000 people are killed (~110/day on average), nearly 200,000 seriously injured (~500/day on average), and nearly 750,000 hospitalized (~2,000/day).
    • The costs of crash injuries incurred in the U.S., each year, are estimated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). According to NHTSA, each year the costs of crash injuries amount to about $100 Billion in economic costs and $300 Billion in comprehensive costs. DOT currently attributes costs ranging from $333,000 for a serious injury to $5,800,000 for a fatality. From 1978 through 2008, NHTSA counted 1,354,500 fatalities.

This Labor Day weekend we can expect about 500 crash fatalities. See http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/809736.PDF

Despite this record of enormous tragedy, to this date NHTSA does not count the following costs and consequences of crash injuries.

(Bankruptcies are another cost that NHTSA does not count as a consequence of the 40,000 crash deaths and 250,000 serious injuries that occur each year. NY Times columnist, Nicholas Kristof, calls attention to this problem: See http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/30/opinion/30kristof.html ” A study reported in The American Journal of Medicine this month found that 62 percent of American bankruptcies are linked to medical bills. These medical bankruptcies had increased nearly 50 percent in just six years. Astonishingly, 78 percent of these people actually had health insurance, but the gaps and inadequacies left them unprotected when they were hit by devastating bills.”

http://download.journals.elsevierhealth.com/pdfs/journals/0002-9343/PIIS0002934309004045.pdf )

For more see Vision for a Safer America

We can, and must, do better at reducing motor vehicle crash tragedies. Let us resolve to do so.