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Excerpt from 6 part series – Houston Chronicle Out of Control Part 6 – In Texas, the cost of one crash by St. John Barned-Smith and Dug Begley

When drivers crash, everyone pays, whether in the form of higher insurance premiums, more expensive automobiles with added safety features, higher taxes for emergency response and cleanup, car repairs, and millions in lost wages or productivity due to hours spent in idling traffic.

“There is a huge economic toll,” said Kara Macek, with the Governors Highway Safety Association. “Property damage is just the tip of the iceberg.”

Far larger and costlier effects from crashes are medical bills that mount for serious injuries. Nationally, of the $1.14 million direct cost for crashes involving severe injury, $837,182, or more than 73 percent, is from medical bills and lost wages.

Factoring all economic losses — deaths, years of recovery and treatment from serious injuries, insurance, property damage and police time — the National Center for Statistics and Analysis set the annual national cost of roadway crashes at $242 billion, or 1.6 percent of the nation’s 2015 GDP.

Put another way, the cumulative toll of the crashes that take place across the nation every year ends up costing every American $784 a year. The only ways to save that money are make medicine cheaper and materials less expensive to replace, or reduce the number of crashes.

Regionally, transportation officials have called it a public health issue, noting that the nearly $4.9 billion in direct crash costs in Texas is about one ninth of the nation’s $44 billion in direct costs from crashes.

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