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Crashes and Standard of Living

In an article from the New Scientist from 1972, I came across this interesting little note:

“In the US a recent survey demonstrated how serious can be the social consequences [of a serious injury from a road crash]: half of the severely injured in one year were forced permanently to lower their living standards.”

I don’t know what the survey was and the exact mechanism used in gauging living standards but the finding is striking; it also points to something that is often overlooked in road safety, which tends to emphasize fatalities — the consequences of non-fatal crashes.

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, May 26th, 2010 at 11:56 am and is filed under Traffic safety. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

4 Responses to “Crashes and Standard of Living”

  1. Zebee Says:

    Follow up on survivors of motorcycle crashes has shown that they are at a high risk of serious depression and possibly suicide. (This isn’t published research, it’s followup via hospital outreach) Seems to affect motorcyclists more because they usually aren’t riding as a form of transport but because they enjoy it and if they can’t ride because of injury it hits them hard.

    Only counting fatals is a problem for motorcycle safety because the difference between a fatal and a serious injury can be a tenth of a second or a degree of angle. There are fewer bikes, so fewer fatals, so not enough useful information. Also a car to car non-fatal would be a car to bike fatal like as not, but because non-fatals aren’t counted any information from them such as road conditions or driver attitude isn’t counted either. If more attention was paid to nonfatals we might get more attention paid to what is making crashes happen. (Although there will never be the politcal will to tackle the real problem which is the entitlement to drive)

    Shouldn’t surprise anyone that a serious injury makes a serious difference. This is an ableist world, ask anyone with limited mobility just how easy life is, and ask anyone who has had that disability more than 15 years how easy it used to be.

  2. Michael Prager Says:

    I would imagine that the non-fatal crashes could have huge impacts on the lives of those in the accident and their families. People are permanently disabled, can’t walk, can’t drive, can’t enjoy their quality of life, live with chronic pain, etc. The social cost of all these injuries must be huge in terms of health care, welfare, mental health services, and much more. Think of the impacts on children. I have some back problems which have been very stressful on my family, I can’t imagine if you had a permanent more serious problem.

    Of course, this makes our mission to prevent serious accidents so much more important. It is unacceptable that we have 40,000 deaths and over 2 million injuries each year on our roads. There is so much more that can be done and we need to think differently about how we get around.

  3. Opus the Poet Says:

    As a crash victim who is now unemployable because of my injuries I can state that getting hit with a car definitely lowers your standard of living, and the monetary losses are only the tip of the iceberg.

  4. Catherine Lutz Says:

    Thanks for drawing attention to this, Tom. The impact is monumental when you look at the numbers of people injured and suffering job loss and medical bills year in and year out. 4.1 million people disabled in the last 25 years is a very rough estimate. In research for our book, Carjacked, we interviewed car crash survivors, and their stories are of job loss, medical bills not covered by insurance, and sometimes bankruptcy. In addition, a family member often becomes caretaker for the more seriously injured crash survivors, and he or she, too, gives up a job as a consequence.
    And as Opus and Zebee point out, the emotional toll is huge: 39 percent of the survivors of serious crashes, in one study, suffer PTSD, and depression is also very common.

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Traffic Tom Vanderbilt

How We Drive is the companion blog to Tom Vanderbilt’s New York Times bestselling book, Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us), published by Alfred A. Knopf in the U.S. and Canada, Penguin in the U.K, and in languages other than English by a number of other fine publishers worldwide.

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