Motor Vehicle FatalitiesWhat’s the leading cause of death in the United States? Is it heart disease? Cancer? Whatever thedisease statistics reveal, it may come as a surprise that fatal motor vehicle accidents are the numberone killer in America of people aged from 5 to 34. Across all age groups, a fatal motor vehicleaccident ranks in the top 10 of all things that kill U.S. citizens.Naturally, the cost to relatives and friends of those who lose their lives on our roads goes far beyondeconomics. However, the high cost of a fatal motor vehicle accident in Oregon has recently beenrevealed in a government study, and the results are shocking. In a single year, the cost in terms ofmedical expenses and lost work comes to a staggering $422 million. No, that’s not a national figure.That figure is for Oregon alone. Nationally, the medical and work loss costs exceed $40 billion perannum. When you consider that virtually all road deaths are ultimately preventable throughenforceable policies, driver education and other programs, the costs seem inexcusably high.The breakdownThe statistics reveal even more surprises. For example, pedestrian fatalities in Oregon have a highercost than motorcycle fatalities! Does that mean you’re safer on a motorcycle than walking on thesidewalk? It’s certainly open for debate, but the cost breakdown of the $422 million annual cost is: • Medical costs of fatal motor vehicle accidents account for $4 million, leaving $418 million as work loss costs. • Motor vehicle occupants are unsurprisingly the highest number, at $268 million, or 63% of the total cost. • Pedestrians quite surprisingly come in at number two, at a cost of $54 million, or 13% of the overall total. • Other unspecified motor vehicle traffic-related deaths account for 11% of the total, at a cost of $47 million. • Motorcyclists account for exactly 10% of the total, at $42 million. • Bicyclists are rated at just 3% of the total and a cost of $11 million, but as there are thankfully so few bicycle related fatalities, the producers of the study admit those figures may be unstable.When it comes to breaking down the figures by age group, one fact that may surprise people is thatchildren aged 0 to 14 account for almost twice as many fatalities as older adults aged 65 and over.The breakdown in these figures shows: • Young adults aged 20 to 34, account for 37% of the total medical and loss of work costs in Oregon each year, or $155 million.
• Adults aged 35 to 64 come in a very close second place—36% of the total, or $154 million, virtually identical to the younger victims. • Teens aged 15 to 19 come next statistically, at 16% and $69 million. Remember, these figures don’t just relate to drivers, but to all victims. • Children from 0 to 14 years of age account for 7%, or $28 million of the Oregon total. • Adults aged 65 and over account for 4% of the total, or $16 million.Comparing Oregon to other statesHow does Oregon rank in terms of the cost of fatal motor vehicle accidents when compared withother states in the northwest? Once again, the results may surprise you somewhat. They show thatin terms of an overall total cost, only Washington comes in higher, at $665 million. But then, thepopulation of Washington is 6.3 million people, compared to just 3.6 million in Oregon. Overall, thefigures show: • Alaska, perhaps unsurprisingly, has the lowest crash-related death costs of all states in the region, at $74 million. With a population of 700,000, that comes to a per capita cost of $105 each. • Washington, in spite of having the highest overall cost, comes in at exactly the same $105 per capita cost as Alaska. • Idaho has by far and away the worst record. With a population of 1.4 million, and an annual crash-related death cost of $253 million, the per capita cost is a shocking $180. • That leaves Oregon somewhere in between, with a per capita cost of $117.Why are work loss costs so high?Work loss costs are determined by estimating what the salary, fringe benefits and value ofhousehold work would have been had the person who was killed lived a normal life. The figures arebased on average earnings of people of the same age and sex as the victims. Because the largestproportion of people killed on Oregon roads are those between the ages of 15 and 34 (53% of thetotal), the cost of lost work is disproportionately high, as these people would normally have had fulland productive lives for many years to come.Ways to reduce the costs of a fatal motor vehicle accidentA number of solutions have been proposed, most of which are geared towards preventing accidentsfrom happening in the first place. After that, the emphasis is on preventing fatal injuries whencrashes do occur. Some ideas include: • Introducing graduated drivers licensing laws, giving younger drivers more experience in less hazardous conditions • Creating larger numbers of sobriety checkpoints
• Introducing ignition interlocks for anyone convicted of driving while under the influence of intoxicants • Increased child safety seat and booster seat use • Greater enforcement of seat belt laws • Introducing and enforcing comprehensive motorcycle helmet lawsOregon road traffic fatalities affect thousands of people each year, not just the hundreds that losetheir lives, but the husbands, wives, sons, daughters and parents that are left behind. In addition tothe emotional and psychological devastation of losing a loved one, the financial implications can alsobe disastrous. If a member of your family has been killed in an Oregon fatal motor vehicle accident,you’ll probably wonder how you’re going to cope. One of the best things you can do once you’reable to face the world again is to contact a compassionate and experienced Portland personal injuryattorney for a free consultation, someone who will understand what you’re going through and whatlies ahead. They will help you deal with the insurance companies and get the compensation you andthe other family members who have been left behind need and deserve.