Saturday, April 20

Road deaths steal 80,000 years of life each year

V. Gimenez

Health expenses and loss of productivity caused by traffic accidents pass a bill of 120 euros per Spaniard

Alfonso Torres

Nobody disputes the qualification of drama to describe the outcome of fatal traffic accidents. However, a team of researchers from the University of Murcia has wanted to go further and has managed to limit the socioeconomic dimensions of this drama in Spain. Road deaths have robbed Spaniards of some 80,000 years of life each year over the last decade, according to work carried out by the Health Economics group at this university, in an analysis promoted by the Mutua Madrileña and Caspar Casal.

The negative part is that, according to the work of José María Abellán and Fernando Sánchez, in Spain 875,000 potential years of life have been wasted as a result of the thousands of deaths recorded in traffic accidents from 2008 to 2019. They suppose no less than 1, 6 years evaporated for every 1,000 people, half of them lost in the communities of Madrid, Catalonia, Valencia and Galicia.

The positive part is that the enormous waste of lives has been reduced by almost half in recent years, thanks to the fact that in these eleven years the deaths in accidents have fallen by 43%. In 2021, the latest available data, after another additional decrease in fatal accidents, those killed in the race were about to drop, for the first time since there are records, below 1,000 annually.

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The deaths, serious injuries and multiple disabilities caused by these accidents are lives and families cut short or broken, but also a generator of enormous social costs. Its multimillion-dollar bill is concentrated in a special way on the notable rise in health and social security spending and on a great loss of economic productivity for the country. Abellán and Sánchez have estimated at 66,483 million euros the money invested or evaporated, depending on the case, for these claims, which means approximately squandering half a point of Spanish GDP every year, the wealth generated as a country. It is an average cost for the decade studied of about 6,000 million euros per year or, what is the same, an account of about 120 euros per year per Spaniard.

Risky driving is a purely masculine trait. Three out of four deaths on the roads are men

The third novel element provided by the analysis of these experts is that risky driving in Spain is clearly a masculine patrimony. During the eleven years analyzed, three out of four deaths on the roads were men. This implies a road fatality rate among men that is three to four times higher than that of women. But the most surprising thing is that the proportion -three out of four deaths- did not decrease from 2008 to 2019, not even with the notable increase in female drivers in Spain. In these years, women at the wheel went from being 38% of drivers to 42%. The regions with the highest risk of death in an accident are Galicia, La Rioja, Navarra and Castilla-León.

The study confirms other trends already pointed out by the General Directorate of Traffic in its periodic reports. The tightening of sanctions for dangerous driving -points license and the crime of reckless driving- added to the notable improvement in the passive safety of passengers in automobiles has led to a decrease in road mortality in these eleven years, although not the number of claims, which increased by 25% due to the higher number of accidents with minor injuries in the cities.

vulnerable victims

The popularization of airbags, ABS and other safety systems and assistants have greatly reduced mortality among car occupants, but the absence of equivalent protection has caused deaths among the so-called vulnerable victims (pedestrians, cyclists and bikers) shoot up. Especially among the latest drivers. Vulnerable victims, partly due to the growth of new forms of urban mobility, have accounted for more than half of traffic fatalities since 2019, but motorcyclists are already a quarter of all fatalities, with an increase of eight points ( the largest) since 2008. The case of pedestrians is also worrying. They are 22% of the deceased, six points more than eleven years ago.

With the expansion throughout the country of the network of highways and multi-lane highways, the bulk of the fatal accident rate has been concentrated on secondary roads, especially those with only one lane in each direction of traffic, which encompass the majority of the black spots and are the routes for the dangerous routine displacements.

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