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The high cost of crashes

February 5, 2011

Every day, an average of four New Yorkers die in a traffic-related crash. Every day, about 40 New Yorkers are hospitalized because of a traffic crash. Every day, about 390 New Yorkers are treated in an emergency department.

How big is this motor vehicle crash problem? Big enough that more than 1,400 deaths and more than 15,000 hospitalizations occurs annually, just in New York state.

This information comes from the state Department of Health, which also points out that the annual cost of traffic crashes in New York state is around a half-billion dollars.

Motor vehicle traffic injuries are the leading cause of injury related death in New York state.

"Crash-related injuries are not accidents. They are not random, uncontrollable acts of fate, but occur in predictable patterns, with recognizable risk factors and among identifiable populations. A crash-related injury is a predicable and preventable event." The quoted statements are not from this writer, although I have been saying just that for years, but are rather direct quotes from the DOH.

Readers, these are scary facts, or at least should be. We take driving so matter-of-factly that it's no wonder we don't pay attention to our driving the way we should. Furthermore, it's been proven that the more familiar the roads, the more drivers go on autopilot. This, according to the study by German researchers, makes them more likely to have a crash. When drivers were on new routes their brain activity picked up, so the drivers were more alert and prepared for the unexpected.

Back to the DOH study, most crash victims were vehicle occupants, although a higher percentage of bicyclists, pedestrians, and motorcyclists were injured severely enough to require hospitalization, obviously because of less protection. Males were more likely to have died or been hospitalized from a traffic crash.

Although traffic-related crash injuries occur in all age groups, New Yorkers, aged 15 to 24, had the highest rate of injury following a crash. Vehicle occupants that did not use safety belts or child seats were four times more likely to require hospitalization and their average hospital charges were more than $8,000 higher than for those who belted up. The highest total hospital and emergency department charges for 2007 were for crashes resulting from speeding, failure to yield the right of way and distracted driving.

So, let's learn from all this information. We are not invincible crashes can and will happen to any of us. The better drivers we become, at least the chances of a crash are reduced.

Dave Werner can be reached at



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