CDC estimates high cost of Georgia road deaths

Motor vehicle crash-related deaths in Georgia resulted in an estimated $1.55 billion in medical and work loss costs in a year, the fourth-highest total in the nation, according to a CDC report released Wednesday.

The cost findings are based on 2005 data, the most recent year for which comprehensive data on costs associated with crash deaths are available, the CDC said.

CDC’s analysis found that Georgia’s estimated medical and work loss costs from traffic deaths trailed only California, Texas and Florida. Here’s a link to the CDC statistics.

A Georgia highway safety expert, though, noted Wednesday that the state has improved its road safety laws since 2005.

Nationally, motor vehicle crash-related deaths produced an estimated $41 billion in medical and work loss costs in a year, the CDC analysis found. Half of that cost ($20.4 billion) was in 10 states, the report said. Those states generally rank as the country’s most populous.

The study was not designed to explain the variation in state costs, the CDC said.

The CDC’s estimate of state-based costs of crash deaths coincides with the May 11 launch of the Decade of Action for Road Safety, as proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly.

“Deaths from motor vehicle crashes are preventable,” said CDC Director Thomas Frieden in a statement. “Seat belts, graduated driver’s license programs, child safety seats and helmet use save lives and reduce health care costs.”

Georgia’s driving laws and their enforcement are in the middle of the pack among states, Bob Wilson, director of the Georgia chapter of the National Safety Council, said recently.

The state has a higher rate of motor vehicle fatalities than the national average. Georgia had 1,729 traffic fatalities in 2005, a number that has dropped every year since then, as has the U.S. total.

Wilson said Wednesday that since 2005, “Georgia has made tremendous improvement’’ in its road safety laws.

The state has beefed up its seat belt laws and adopted teen driving restrictions that are saving lives, he said.

Georgia’s Legislature last year approved a bill to ban text messaging while driving. Yet a bill to ban handheld cell use quietly died in the Georgia General Assembly this year.

Wilson said Georgia has a strong motorcycle helmet requirement. And the General Assembly this year passed legislation requiring a car booster seat for children up to age 8, a move that Wilson applauded.

But Wilson also noted that rural gaps in the state’s trauma care hospital system still are costing lives.

Because Georgia has so many rural roadways, he said, “If there is a serious car crash [in a rural area], it’s tough to get people quickly to a trauma center.’’