When we think of traffic here in Atlanta, Georgia, we tend to think in
terms of the missed minutes of life, and the mind-numbing tedium of sitting,
sitting, sitting on I-85, I-75 or I-285 – or for that matter on
Peachtree, Roswell Road, Highway 41, or any of the hundreds of other clogged
arteries around metro Atlanta. We think of the problem in terms of: “How
much time did I waste today, sitting and staring at the bumper of the
car in front of me?” “How late was I to the important meeting
I had this morning?” “Why did I have to miss the first half
of the soccer game tonight?” “How early do I have to leave
tomorrow to avoid what I went through today?” Even as a
car accident lawyer here in Atlanta, I tend to think of traffic in terms of the mundane, ordinary
inconvenience and time lost.
Crashes vs. Congestion – What is the Cost to Society?, the
American Automobile Association (“AAA”) report, the AAA admits that traffic has huge costs for us as a society, in terms
of time, pollution, wasted resources (like gasoline), etc. But in its
November 2011 report, AAA brings us crashing down to reality by pointing
out the far more significant cost of traffic and congestion:
“Yet a more costly problem needs to be addressed and America’s
roads: motor vehicle crashes.”
As AAA points out, motor vehicle crashes cost all of us, in terms of human
capital, as well as physical property. People who get injured miss work.
The employees and their families lose money, and so do the employers who
were counting on the experienced workers who could not show up. Families
go without income because breadwinners are not working. At the ultimate
end of the problem, children go without everything from supervision to
food, because their injured parents are unable to help them physically,
much less emotionally.
Injuries and inconvenience matter, but even worse, the report explains
that: “motor vehicle crashes remain the leading cause of death among
ages 5-34 in the United States and, in terms of years of life lost, rank
third, behind only cancer and heart disease.” Deaths that come from
car accidents are devastating, for a host of reasons: they send emotional
and financial shock waves through our society. At the epicenter, a death
from a car accident devastates the victim’s family, both emotionally
and economically. The ripples reach far across society, affecting the
friends, the colleagues, and even the acquaintances of the victim.
AAA leads us to the conclusion that, all in all, “the societal costs
associated with motor vehicle crashes significantly exceed the cost of
congestion.” Although sitting in traffic is bad, it pales in comparison
to the costs we pay as a society for the car wrecks that occur as a result
of the congestion and the crush of cars we witness in Atlanta every day.
The fact of the matter is that we lose money, resources, and worst of
all – human resources – because of wrecks that occur due to
In reaching its findings, AAA looked at eleven costs that our society incurs
every time a car crash occurs. In my next blog entries, I will discuss
these costs of car accidents.