MERCURIO – a report into the social and economic impact of road injuries
Posted: 16 July 2015 | Dario Noschese, of MERCURIO project
European analysis of the Road Injuries Management System with regard to the social and economic impact of emergency and post-injuries services on national finances and households….
MERCURIO is a European analysis of the Road Injuries Management System with regard to the social and economic impact of emergency and post-injuries services on national finances and households, co-financed by the European Commission – Directorate General for Mobility and Transport.
In the last years, more than 35,000 people died on the roads of the European Union and no fewer than 1,500,000 persons were injured. Accidents remain the most important category of external costs of transport in Europe: 2.5-3.0% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 17 Member States. Their financial strain on affected families is also significant. The need of data in this field is urgent to advocate and motivate policy-makers to action. Road safety is a critical public policy issue. Good data are needed to raise awareness about the magnitude of road traffic injuries’ impact on public and private economies and to motivate policy-makers to action under the EU’s objective of halving the overall number of road deaths in the European Union by 2020.
MERCURIO was planned to support the Commission in the setting-up of a global strategy of action in order to contribute to the definition of scientifically-based and cost-efficient measures to be taken at national level to improve emergency and post-injuries services under Objective 6 of the EU Policy Orientations on Road Safety 2011-2020. Therefore, MERCURIO addressed stakeholders involved in the management of post-crashes or affected by the costs generated by it, such as: policy-makers in the field of road safety and health, police forces, fire brigades, law courts, insurance companies, injured people and their families, and other actors identified though research activities.
The Project, started in 2012, is the outcome of a partnership between several European Organisations: CODACONS, ISES and Autostrade per l’Italia (Italy), Avenir Santè (France), Factum (Austria) and The Traffic Research Academy (Czech Republic).
The project objective was to perform an accurate and scientifically-based analysis of the social and economic impact of road injuries in the immediate and long-term, assessing the related costs they place on public finances and households, as well as the need of a definition of evidence-based and cost-efficient measures to improve emergency and post-injuries services.
In order to achieve the goal, MERCURIO project has been structured in modular research activities, which together contributed to the achievement of a collection of data useful to European stakeholders and especially to policy-makers to design evidence-based and cost-efficient measures to improve emergency and post-injuries services.
The MERCURIO general objective was achieved through a set of related specific objectives complementary one to each other:
- To outline and understand the Road Injuries Management System (RIMS) in the EU and especially in the participating countries (Italy, France, Austria, and Czech Republic), by performing a desk review of updated data and statistics.
- To assess the social and economic impact of road injuries, with special regard to emergency and post-injuries services, on households and on national finances in participating countries, through the implementation of a scientifically validated methodology of data collection and analysis and the consultation of direct sources.
- To raise awareness, commitment and informed decision-making at all levels in road injuries management and especially in post-crash services, by disseminating to EU Member States’ authorities MERCURIO’s findings, through their publication and the organisation of seminars in the participating countries.
The activities put in place to achieve specific objectives were:
Desk review of the Road Injuries Management System
Partners performed a desk review of the Road Injuries Management System to contextualise MERCURIO focused researches in a more comprehensive analysis of the phenomenon in order to have the updated and widening knowledge on the Road Injuries Management System.
Assessment of the social and economic burden road crashes place on national finances
Partners performed an analysis to assess the social and economic cost of road injuries on GDP of the participating countries by studying the following variables:
- Medical costs of the management and treatment of casualties
- Administration costs related to the settlement of crashes
- Public property damage which include the costs resulting from damage to goods
- Loss of output deriving from the temporary/permanent disability of the injured and the complete loss of production of fatalities.
The ‘restitution costs method’ has been applied to the first three variables, estimating the direct cost by consulting national competent authorities while the ‘human capital method’ has been applied to determine the loss of output.
Assessment of the economic and social burden road crashes place on households
Road accident victims from the past five years were asked to complete a questionnaire which consisted of questions concerning the following variables:
- Economic loss and its social impact
- Loss of quality of life
- Estimation of the impact of insurance payment on household finances and of its capacity in supporting families who struggle with incurred costs.
After almost three years of work, research activities contributed to the achievement of a collection of data useful to European stakeholders and especially to policy-makers to design evidence-based and cost-efficient measures to improve emergency and post-injuries services, including: an updated review on Road Injuries Management System, the estimation of the social and economic cost of road injuries for public finances in immediate and in long-term post-crash management and the most reliable estimation of the economic and social cost of road injuries for households thanks to direct consultation of injured people and their families.
Desk review of the Road Injuries Management System showed that there are no particular differences in legal and organisational framework in the participating countries however there is a lack of clear and shared definitions for the collection of road accidents data in UE and EU Member States do not adopt a single definition of serious injuries. Thus, the activity conclusions calls for a real need to have data of road accidents comparable at European level to make reliable analyses of the phenomenon and to compare the results obtained at all levels of aggregation.
Assessment of the social and economic burden road crashes place on national finances showed that much work has to be undertaken in the future in order to precise all input data on health care, police, fire fighter, court and administrative authority costs and all relevant items influencing the calculation of the costs.
Assessment of the economic and social burden road crashes place on households showed that even minor injuries can cause substantial physical and psychological discomfort and that psychological problems and personal suffering are not sufficiently considered. Furthermore, insurance companies tend not to make traffic accident related data available, therefore not likely to support studies related to insurance payout.
The project findings point out that:
- No serious actions can be undertaken worldwide unless a commonly accepted, from all countries, database on accidents’ aspects is created. Almost each country has different systems in collecting this data making any serious analysis and comparison of results between countries impossible or, at least, unreliable. It is therefore fundamental to identify, at European level, guidelines and standard definitions for better analysis of the phenomenon and the creation of a common European background system.
- The problem of characterising an injury as ‘light’ or ‘serious’ has to be addressed and the mechanisms of this characterisation to find a common definition.
- A classification and harmonisation of definition of accidents including single road accidents and vulnerable road users (pedestrians, cyclists or mobility impaired persons) is needed. More precise statistics which takes care of this problem are needed.
- Financial evaluation of accidents needs to be improved. For this reason, Member States are called to implement specific actions to evaluate costs of road accidents.
- Member States are also called to promote allocation of funds for structural measures aimed at reducing accident rates and social costs of road accidents.
- Psychological problems and personal suffering due to a traffic accident are not considered in most countries. Even minor injuries can cause substantial physical and psychological discomfort which can have a great impact on the life of the victim. A common path needs to be defined in this subject.
- Complementary information from insurance companies tend not to make traffic accident related data available and are not likely to support studies relating to insurance payout following accidents. Data from insurance companies should be made more available for statistical purposes within a frame respecting client personal data and companies policies.
- Countries need to encourage collaboration among different sectors involved in collecting and reporting road trafﬁc injury data. This involves improving data linkages between police, transport and health authorities and services harmonisation of case-definition, as well as increase human capacity to undertake data collection.
- Enforcement of all road safety laws needs to be improved. Enforcement efforts must be well-publicised, sustained and implemented through the use of appropriate measures and penalties for infringement.
- The economic costs of accidents has to be taken into consideration as the integrated part of any road investment and cost-benefit analyses of safety measure.
More information and completed reports are available to download on the project website at www.mercurio-project.eu