The Cost of Portland Traffic Crashes: $2.74 Billion in 2009

People generally believe that time spent sitting in traffic jams is expensive time lost. They feel the costs in terms of lost earnings, as well as the physical and emotional strains caused by sitting in traffic, are extremely high. Those people would be absolutely right. The congestion cost in the Portland metropolitan area for 2009 (the last year for which data is available) was just shy of $960 million. What’s shocking then, is that the cost of Portland traffic crashes was almost treble that figure for the same year! Our Portland traffic crash accident attorneys were shocked to read that the cost of Portland’s traffic crashes was $2.74 billion in 2009.

The Cost of Portland Traffic Crashes is Average 

The 2009 AAA analysis found that the financial damage created by vehicle crashes across the country came to a shocking $300 billion. The same study concluded the cost of congestion was a relatively (by comparison) minor $97.7 billion. In other words, the cost of Portland traffic crashes was more than treble that of congestion. This would put the Portland metropolitan area roughly in line with the national average, because the 2009 cost of Portland traffic crashes came to $2.74 billion—again, nearly treble that of congestion costs.

Car Crashes Kill 635 People Every Week (33,000 per year). 

Marie Dodds is a spokeswoman for the AAA of Oregon and Idaho. She feels people’s perceptions of the inconvenience of sitting in traffic jams, compared with the cost in human life of traffic crashes, is a bit askew. “You hear a lot of people complaining about sitting in traffic and how long it takes them to get to work every day, but you never hear people complaining about the cost of a crash.” Dodds said 33,000 people per year (635 per week) are killed in traffic crashes, and if that many people were killed by anything else, there would be societal outrage. “But we seem to think it’s ok to die in traffic crashes,” she mused.

How to Determine the Cost of a Traffic Crash

Federal Highway Administration data analyzes 11 key components when breaking down the cost of traffic crashes.

  • Property damage
  • Lost earnings
  • Lost household production
  • Medical costs
  • Emergency services
  • Travel delay
  • Vocational rehabilitation
  • Workplace costs
  • Administrative costs
  • Legal costs
  • Pain and lost quality of life

Chris Monsere, a Portland State University professor of civil and environmental engineering, says it’s difficult to completely unravel the cost differences between congestion and Portland traffic crashes, simply because congestion is frequently that which leads to the crash, and crashes certainly lead to congestions and delays. In spite of that, the numbers in terms of what different types of accidents cost can be shown quite clearly, and one thing is absolutely certain. The cost of a Portland traffic crash is almost 48 times greater when someone is killed than when injured. Again, this is directly in line with national averages. Referring to the 2009 study, it was shown that fatal car crashes across the country in general, and in Portland specifically, cost an average of exactly $6 million each.

There were 120 fatal traffic crashes in Portland in 2009, and the final cost came to $720 million. Serious injury traffic crashes in the same year cost an average of $126,000. In all, there were 15,996 reported traffic-related injuries in Portland in 2009, and the cost of those crashes came to more than $2 billion in total. Taking the total population of the Portland metropolitan area into consideration, the cost to every man woman and child for 2009 fatal and injury-related traffic crashes was $1,220, according to the AAA.

In other parts of Oregon, the figures make similarly disturbing reading. In the Eugene-Springfield area for example, the annual cost of traffic crashes is reportedly $515 million, or $1,468 per person. That’s 13 times more than the area’s cost of congestion ($39 million). In Salem, crashes cost $604 million per year, but that’s a relatively small $420 per person. The cost of congestion there is $100 million per annum.

One Possible Solution 

The AAA would like to see a long-term, multi-year federal transportation bill that invests heavily in better and safer roads across the nation. The figures in their report bear out the need to increase public and policy-makers’ awareness of the tremendous cost of traffic crashes. They say investing in physical improvements to the roads, such as the addition of rumble strips and medians with cable barriers, will have an exponential benefit in decreasing the horrible cost of Portland traffic crashes. In addition, they would like to see greater enforcement of modern traffic laws, especially those that relate to distracted driving.

The cost of a Portland traffic crash in monetary terms is extremely high, but the cost in terms of physical pain and suffering when a serious injury or death occurs is immeasurable. If you’ve been injured as a result of another driver’s negligence, you owe it to yourself to contact a Portland traffic crash injury attorney. They will listen with a sympathetic and understanding ear, and then explain to you in detail your options.