Traffic Accidents Hurt Productivity

Seatbelts could cut down on work days lost after crashes, study says

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FRIDAY, Oct. 29, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- Drivers and passengers involved in motor vehicle crashes in the United States between 1993 and 2001 lost a total of 60.8 million days of work, resulting in lost productivity costs of more than $7.5 billion.

That's the conclusion of a study in the October issue of Injury Prevention.

Of those lost productivity costs, about $5.6 billion were the result of injuries suffered by people who weren't wearing seatbelts. The study also found that more than 30 percent of drivers and passengers involved in a crash lost at least one day of work. Overall, work time lost after a crash averaged 28 days.

Researchers at the Harborview Injury Prevention & Research Center in Seattle analyzed 32,748 employed people aged 18 to 65 involved in motor vehicle crashes.

The study found that 58 percent of the people were wearing seatbelts, 17 percent weren't wearing seatbelts and 2.5 percent were wearing their seatbelts improperly. Data wasn't available for the remaining 22 percent.

People who weren't using seatbelts lost an average of 96 work days while those who were wearing seatbelts lost an average of 10 work days.

"Because our study was not restricted to hospitalized trauma patients, we were able to estimate national productivity losses," principal investigator Dr. Beth Ebel, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington, said in a prepared statement.

"The magnitude of these losses raises questions about how they might be prevented. The universal use of seatbelts would potentially save $5.6 billion of lost productivity. Effective strategies to increase seatbelt use, such as primary enforcement seatbelt laws, could yield considerable economic gains," Ebel said.

More information

The National Safety Council has advice on defensive driving.

SOURCE: University of Washington, news release, October 2004

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