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Research study evaluates costs related to accidents involving teenage drivers

A recently released research study indicated that motor vehicle accidents involving young drivers 15 to 17 years of age cost the United States more than $34 billion annually in medical expenses, lost work hours, property damages, quality of life loss, deaths and related expenditures in 2006.

The AAA traffic safety study determined that the total cost of teen-related crashes in Utah in 2006 registered at $308 million.

"There are obviously severe consequences for the people directly involved in these crashes and for their family and friends, but the effects don't end there," pointed out Rolayne Fairclough, spokesperson for AAA Utah. "Our research reveals how these incidents impact everyone including taxpayers.

According to the analysis conducted by the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, drivers ages 15 to 17 were involved in about 974,000 motor vehicle crashes in 2006. The accidents injured 406,427 people and killed 2,541 victims.

The $34.4 billion in costs reported in 2006 included $9.8 billion stemming from fatal crashes. The total represents an average cost of $3.841 million per fatality.

Injury crashes averaged $50,512, costing a total of $20.5 billion.

Property damage crashes accounted for the remaining $4.1 billion in cost.

Comprehensive graduated driver licensing (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. GDL systems ease teens into driving through a combination of mandatory practice and limited driving at night and with passengers.

AAA has been the leading advocate for GDL restrictions in Utah. The final version of the law was passed in 2006.

In Utah in 2006 crashes involving drivers age 15-17 resulted in:

•9,260 crashes

•26 deaths

•3,864 injuries

•$31 million in medical costs

•$91 million in work related losses

•$41 million in property damage

•$308 million in total costs

"Some of these costs are relatively easy to add up because the government pays the bills for expenses like Medicaid, police, paramedics and courts," said Fairclough. "Many other costs like lost wages, traffic delays and reduced quality of life are not as apparent, but add significantly to the toll teen crashes take on society.

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.

Information about the teen driver programs offered by the association is available online to Carbon County residents with Internet access at

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