Triple-A Mid-Atlantic says traffic crashes on local roads cost the region $7.4 billion a year -- that's nearly twice as much as the economic burden traffic congestion places on the region.
They commissioned a study that looked at the number of annual crashes in the area combined with the Federal Highway Adminsitration's data on the comprehensive cost of traffic crashes -- considering factors such as medical and emergency services, lost earnings, property damage and diminished quality of life to come up with their figure. Even though the number of crashes continues to decrease, AAA says the overall cost has been increasing at a rapid rate, thanks largely to the rising costs of health care.
Triple-A mid-Atlantic spokesman John Townsend says leaders in D.C., Maryland and Virginia all need to take a closer look at traffic safety numbers and pass stricter traffic safety laws. Townsend says Graduated Drivers License laws, which phase in driving privileges for teenagers as they learn to drive, are a good place to start. They also advocate for stricter rules and penalties for distracted driving.
In 2009 -- the most recent year in which data is available -- there were more than 42,000 injuries on D.C. area roads, with 350 fatalities reported. Though the number of traffic fatalities has been decreasing in recent years, traffic crashes remain the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S.