Traffic accidents are more than statistics

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In Georgia, there were 3,089 traffic crashes reported during last month's four-day Thanksgiving holiday weekend, resulting in 730 injuries and 13 fatalities. What we often fail to comprehend are the multitude of costs that are incurred by insurers as well as the drivers and passengers involved in a crash.

According to the Insurance Services Office (ISO), a statistical gathering organization supported by the insurance industry, in 2008 the average severity (the amount paid for each claim) for bodily injury liability claims was $13,533 per person.

Over the Thanksgiving weekend in Georgia, the 730 injuries reported translates to roughly $749,000 in claims, based on nationwide injury liability costs.

Property damage liability claims severity averaged $2,889 nationwide in 2008. In Georgia, while some crashes were single vehicle and others multiple vehicle collisions, those 3,089 single-vehicle crashes could be estimated at an average of $8.9 million.

Physical property damage claims in '08 averaged $3,004. At 3,089 crashes in Georgia, that would result in $9.4 million. All told, this would mean the monetary cost to insurers from these 3,089 crashes would be somewhere between $8.9 and $9.4 million.

During the same holiday period, 13 motorists or passengers died as a result of traffic crashes.

Here's something many of us often overlook. There is a significant cost in both time and money to deal with the passing of a family member, a caregiver or, often, a single parent of one or more children.

Road crashes do not include time off from work for those injured, various other issues such as court time either as a defendant or a witness, vehicle rentals if not covered by insurance, the inconvenience of traffic delays for other holiday travelers while the crash site is cleaned up, or temporary living expenses for a family if the injured victim is located away from home.

The point is to help motorists consider both the ramifications of holiday travel and the cause of many of these crashes.

Distracted driving is a major problem and is getting worse; talking on cell phones, eating food while driving, or a conversation among passengers in the vehicle are just a few examples that take away from the defensive driving that is expected of a motorist.

Naturally, speeding is a cause in some holiday accidents, and so is following too closely, both of which are easily avoidable.

Motorists often fail to recall that a safe distance from the vehicle in front of them is one car length for every 10 miles per hour the vehicles are traveling

Think of how many drivers you see that follow the vehicle in front of them at one car length while both are moving at more than 55 miles per hour.

The bottom line comes to this. Traffic crashes result in vehicle damage and often injuries or death. The at-fault driver often receives a traffic citation, at the very least, and court time, and, for some, even jail time.

Families are disrupted when hospitalization is required and if lawsuits ensue. Is saving a few minutes of travel time worth the potentially catastrophic problems that may result from driver error or lack of attention to the road?

Remember, the end-of-year holidays are ahead.

To quote the shift sergeant from one of my favorite old TV police shows: "Be careful out there!"

David Colmans is the executive director of the Georgia Insurance Information Service. Contact him at (770) 565-3806 or dcolmans@giis.org.

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