Does it seem like driving has become more expensive in recent years? It likely has. The U.S. has seen more new cars on the road, and those cars are driving more miles than in years past. The severity of traffic-related accidents has grown worse, and insurance claims for bodily injury have become more expensive. Together, these factors are increasing the cost of driving for just about every car owner.
More new cars
New car sales hit a new record in 2016, with 17.55 million vehicles sold, up from 17.5 million in the previous year according to Forbes.com and AutoData. This was the seventh straight year of rising sales. That’s good for the economy. It’s good for drivers too, as the safety, technology and convenience features get better every year. Still, new cars can be more expensive to repair or replace. All that technology doesn’t come cheap, so the cost of accident repairs is also increasing.
More miles driven
Encouraged by greater employment and lower gas prices, those new cars, along with the older ones, are driving more miles. Whether driving around town, driving to work, or driving to their vacation destination, U.S. drivers drove 3.2 trillion miles in 2016, according to the Federal Highway Administration. That’s another record, and of course, the more miles driven, the greater the potential for accidents and the need for repairs.
Traffic deaths increase
Any traffic fatality is one too many, but the U.S. registered a 7.2 percent increase in annual traffic-related deaths from 2014 to 2015. It was the largest increase since 1966. Half of those who died were not wearing seat belts, a third of the deaths were due to drunk drivers or speeding and at least one in 10 involved distraction. It’s also worth noting that fatalities for pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcyclists increased more in 2015 than those for auto drivers and passengers. It’s a heartbreaking trend that’s both dangerous and costly.
Medical costs rising
From 2005 to 2013, the average cost for a bodily injury liability claim rose 32.1 percent, according to the Insurance Research Council. These increasing costs have been attributed to a number of factors, including the rising severity of accidents and the rising cost of medical care. The increase in liability claim cost comes even as the frequency of such claims has been declining.
Although using a mobile phone while driving is restricted, if not prohibited, in many states, phone use and texting continue to be a serious cause of accidents. We don’t know just how serious this problem is because accident reports often don’t mention if mobile phone use was a contributing factor.
But, mobile phones have brought greater awareness to the larger category termed “distracted driving”—activities that take the driver’s attention away from the road. Distracted driving most commonly refers to using a mobile phone or texting while operating a car, but can also refer to eating while driving, operating your car’s navigation system and conversing with passengers.
All of these rising costs and dangers impact another area of driving, too–auto insurance costs. Many companies are forced to adjust rates to keep up with the rising trends, and you might see it reflected in your own premium bill. You may be tempted to lower your costs by reducing your insurance coverage. Beware! At a time when the risk of costly accidents is rising, it may not be wise to save money by undercutting your protection against financial loss.
This article was reprinted from a Vantage Credit Union eNewsletter.
Casey & Devoti is a St. Louis-based personal injury law firm. Together Matt Casey and Matt Devoti have nearly 40 years of trial experience. They handle a variety of personal injury matters, including: car, truck and train accidents, victims of impaired and distracted driving, medical malpractice and birth injuries, product and premises liability, Workers’ Compensation, and wrongful death. If you or a loved one have been injured by the negligence of another, call our office today for a free, no-obligation consultation: (314) 421-0763.