The Preventable High Speed Plague – Health Care Dollars and the Automobile

2009-09-26 |

When it comes to life threatening danger, the riskiest activity in which most of us regularly participate is driving or riding in a vehicle. However, because we do it so often, we have become almost completely desensitized to the real risk that it represents. Driving requires constant vigilance and so it is usually when we are not quite focused on the task that we will be rapidly reintroduced to its dangers. It is then when we get that unexpected shot of adrenaline as we narrowly avoid rear-ending the vehicle in front of us, if we are lucky.

How Many Fatal Automobile Accidents Occur Each Year?

In the US, there are more than 40,000 automobile fatalities annually, or 1 person dying roughly every 12 minutes. Tragically, approximately one out of every 260 people will die of an automobile accident. Of the fatalities, more than 50% occur with the victim not wearing a seat belt and 40% of the fatalities involve alcohol. While the number of people dying from automobile collisions is decreasing in countries like the US, Canada and the UK, these numbers show that so many of the deaths are still preventable.

The Financial Costs Of Automobile Injuries And Fatalities Around The World

Although these numbers are significant, in low and middle-income countries, the situation is far worse and worsening. Examining the impact in terms of dollars, the estimate is that traffic accidents cost more than $60 billion to developing countries that receive roughly only half that amount in foreign aid. A study in Bangladesh concluded that 70% of families that lost a family member in a road accident faced a reduction in income and ability to purchase food.

The Human Costs Of Automobile Injuries And Fatalities

Looking at the more human side of the equation, in the US only 1 in 150 automobile accidents will result in death, but in developing countries 3 in 10 accidents cause death. A representative of the World Health Organization even stated that traffic accidents kill more people worldwide than malaria. Though fatalities are usually the number most quoted, it is also important to mention the 20 to 50 million people who are injured in these accidents, some of them severely so and also permanently disabled. These numbers continue to become worse and in 10 years it is expected that automobile accidents will be the third leading cause of death and disability worldwide.

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Category: General Health, Health Risks, Healthcare Politics

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