For most people, driving is the riskiest thing that they will ever do. Although plane crashes may get more attention, the fatality rate is 300 times higher when traveling by car compared to traveling by plane. To make driving safer, there will need to be steps taken to either improve driver behavior or improve automobile technology. In the long run, there may be more to gain by improving technology.
According to the NHTSA, there were 27,600 lives saved in 2012 because of safety technology and other safety mandates related to automobiles. Overall, there were 33,500 fatalities in that year, and a 2001 study conducted by the agency found that the cost of safety standards was about $1,000 per vehicle.
However, the economic value of a statistical life is about $9.4 million according to the Department of Transportation. If a self-driving vehicle could cut the actual fatality rate in half, that could save as many as 16,000 lives. All told, that would have an economic value of $150 billion in savings by preventing those deaths. Families may also be able to save up to $2,500 a year by using a self-driving car because fewer people would need to own one.
While improved technology may lower the risk of a car accident, that doesn’t help those who are injured due to another person’s negligent driving today. Those who are injured in a car crash that was caused by a distracted or impaired motorist will often rack up high medical bills, and in many cases their financial circumstances are worsened due to an inability to return to work for prolonged periods. A personal injury attorney can often be of assistance to such a victim in seeking compensation from the at-fault motorist.