One of the most disappointing trends in recent years has been the steadily increasing road toll. From a low of 249 deaths in the year to the end of Feb-2014, as of the end of Feb 2018 we’re at 385 and as of the Tuesday it reached 399. If current trends continue, by the end of the year that number could be over 450 deaths. Additionally, there are thousands of people injured or seriously injured every year.
On top of the enormous human costs these deaths and injuries inflict, they also impose costs on society. For example, someone who dies is obviously no longer able to participate in the economy and every year, the Ministry of Transport produce a report that estimates the social cost of crashes in New Zealand. The report for 2016 was released in December and the total cost is staggering. These costs used are made up of the following components:
- loss of life and life quality
- loss of output due to temporary incapacitation
- medical costs
- legal costs
- vehicle damage costs
As a result of those components, the Ministry is able to come up with the following costs per death and injury.
The updated value of statistical life is $4.21 million per fatality, at June 2017 prices. Adding the other social cost components gives an updated average social cost per fatality of $4,242,100. For non-fatal injuries, the updated average social cost is estimated at $446,000 per serious injury and $23,800 per minor injury. After scaling up the estimates to account for non-reported cases, the average social cost estimates increase to $786,000 per reported serious injury and $82,000 per reported minor injury.
There are some big costs in there and when it’s all added up, the total is over $4 billion.
The total social cost of motor vehicle injury crashes in 2016 is estimated at approximately $4.17 billion, at June 2017 prices. This represents an increase of $0.3 billion (or 7.8 percent) compared to the previous year ($3.87 billion in 2015). This increase reflects a 2.5 percent increase in the total number of fatalities (from 319 in 2015 to 327 in 2016) and a 17 percent increase in the estimated total number of serious injuries (from 3,775 in 2015 to 4,410 in 2016). There was a small reduction (2 percent) in the estimated total number of minor injuries (from 34,817 in 2015 to 34,133 in 2016).
The costs are reflected in this chart and as you’d expect, death and serious injuries dominate the outcomes, accounting for over 90% of the total costs.
And here’s what it looks like over time. Like with the overall toll, the cost of crashes was falling for some time but that’s changed in recent ears.
Finally, these graphs show the cost by region and whether it is an open or urban road.
With the number of deaths and injuries each increasing by 15% in 2017, these costs are only going to go up and push towards the $5 billion mark. While we can’t do anything about 2017 result, it’s urgent the government, councils and transport agencies focus on delivering safety projects. Part of that will require more funding from the government and I believe we’ll see the upcoming Government Policy Statement support that.
Sadly, 2018 shaping up towards being an even higher number,