U.S. car accident cost: $164.2 billion

AAA report says crashes are 2-1/2 times more costly that traffic jams.

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By Catherine Clifford, CNNMoney.com staff writer

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Auto accidents cost each American more than $1,000 a year, 2-1/2 times the cost of the traffic jams that frustrate the nation's drivers, according to a report issued Wednesday.

The motorist advocacy group AAA said accidents cost $164.2 billion each year, which based on the methodology used in the report comes to an annual per person cost of $1,051.

AAA said the study that quantified the cost of traffic accidents was conducted by Cambridge Systematics and considered costs from medical care, emergency and police services, property damage, lost productivity and quality of life.

The group said traffic congestion costs the nation $67.6 billion each year, or $430 per person, according to the annual traffic congestion report issued by the Texas Transportation Institute that takes into account 85 urban areas throughout the United States.

AAA's point in issuing the study was to put a pricetag on accidents, saying people seem more concerned with the frustrations of traffic congestion.

"Nearly 43,000 people die on the nation's roadways each year," said AAA President and CEO Robert L. Darbelnet in a report. "Yet, the annual tally of motor vehicle-related fatalities barely registers as a blip in most people's minds."

The nation needs to change its "cultural complacency" regarding accident deaths on its roads, Troy Green, AAA's public relations manager, told CNNMoney.com. "We really need to change the way we talk about this safety message to the public."

The AAA report comes out just as Congress looks to reauthorize federal transportation programs for 2009. Troy said the report is looking for "leadership at the national, state and local levels" in support of what he called "a public health challenge."

According to the AAA report, urban areas with more than 3 million residents pay two times the cost of congestion for crashes, while in areas with less than 500,000 residents, the cost of car crashes rises to seven times the cost of congestion.

Elly Martin, a spokeswoman for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, told CNNMoney.com that the cost of accidents to society could be even greater than what the AAA study is predicting.

Martin said a prior study by her group concluded"that the cost to society was $230.6 billion in 2000 and the likelihood is that it is even greater today."

"Society is paying a huge price for motor vehicle crashes on our roadways," she said. To top of page

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