AAA analysis finds teen crashes cost society more than $34 billion annually in the U.S. ; $166 milli

AAA analysis finds teen crashes cost society more than $34 billion annually in the U.S. ; $166 million in SD
A first-ever analysis from AAA finds that crashes involving teen drivers ages 15 to 17 cost American society more than $34 billion annually in medical expenses, lost work, property damage, quality of life loss and other related costs in 2006.

The cost of these crashes totaled $166 million in South Dakota in 2006.

"The impact of a teen crash extends beyond the emotional tragedies and physical injuries at the crash scene, with costs that can extend to employers, families, the government and society overall," said Mark Madeja, spokesman for AAA South Dakota. "These economic figures provide one more reason for legislators in South Dakota to improve our graduated driver licensing (GDL) law. Strengthening GDL is a proven step South Dakota can and should take to reduce the deadly toll of teen driver crashes."

Comprehensive GDL systems ease teens into driving through a combination of mandatory practice while limiting nighttime driving and the number of peer passengers.

"Currently, South Dak-ota's GDL law does not impose any restrictions on the number of teen passengers a novice driver can have in the car," said Madeja. "There's no doubt reducing distractions will result in a safer driver. Other states are seeing reduced teen fatality and injury rates – it's time South Dakota did.

Comprehensive GDL systems have been shown to reduce fatal crashes involving 16-year-old drivers by an average of 38 percent, according to a 2007 report from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety and Johns Hopkins University. AAA South Dakota is a leading advocate for teen driver safety and remains committed to encouraging South Dakota legislators to improve GDL laws.

According to the analysis conducted by the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation for AAA, drivers ages 15 to 17 in 2006 nationwide were involved in about 974,000 crashes, injuring 406,427 people and killing 2,541.

The $34.4 billion cost in 2006 included $9.8 billion in cost from fatal crashes, with an average cost of $3.841 million per fatality. Injury crashes averaged $50,512, with their large numbers producing a total cost of $20.5 billion – more than twice the cost of fatal crashes. Property damage crashes accounted for the remaining $4.1 billion in cost.

In South Dakota, the study shows teens ages 15 to 17 in 2006 were involved in 5,191 crashes, injuring 2,166 people and resulting in the deaths of 16 others. These crashes cost South Dakotans $11 million in medical expenses, $56 million in work loss, $17 million in property damage, $58 million in quality of life loss and $24 million in other expenses.

"Some of these costs are paid directly by government through Medicaid, police, paramedics and courts. Many other costs – like lost wages, traffic delay and reduced quality of life – don't show up directly, but also reflect the very large, very real cost of crashes involving teen drivers," said Madeja.

The cost of teen crashes was calculated using modeling that researchers at PIRE have used for economic analysis for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The analysis draws upon a broad range of databases and research involving crashes, injury types, medical costs by state and more.

As North America's largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 51 million members (89,000 in South Dakota) with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. AAA South Dakota can be visited on the Internet at

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