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Half of injuries treated at SF General Hospital are from traffic collisions

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Police investigate the scene of a crash involving alleged car break-in suspects in July, 2016. (Courtesy Bryan Carmody)
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Half of all injuries treated at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital are from traffic collisions, which adds up to more than $35 million in medical costs annually.

That’s according to a new analysis by the Department of Public Health, which crunched the numbers on transportation-related severe injuries treated at the hospital’s trauma center from 2012 to 2014 and found the total for that time period was a whopping $105.5 million.

People injured in traffic collisions exceeds “all other categories for cause of injury including falls, cuts/pierces, firearms, and assault,” according to the health department.

“We’re astounded to learn that half of all San Francisco trauma victims are transportation-related traffic crashes,” said Nicole Ferrara, executive director of the advocacy group Walk SF.

Walk SF is part of the Vision Zero coalition, a group aiming to curb traffic fatalities and injuries in San Francisco. The Board of Supervisors tasked San Francisco with stopping all traffic deaths in The City by 2024.

Though the argument made by advocates has largely revolved around the number of deaths and injuries in The City, this is perhaps the first time a dollar figure has been placed on what the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency and advocates have called “preventable deaths.”

“Vehicular injury is a significant public health problem and the leading cause of death in the first 44 years of life,” wrote the health department in a summary of its findings.

Those findings are still being tallied into a report which will be presented at the Western Trauma Association annual meeting in March 2017, though some statistics were made public in a summary of the analysis presented to the San Francisco Health Commission on Tuesday.

More than 4,000 patients were included in the analysis. The average cost of treatment per patient was $25,200, with a total of more than 10,000 hospitalization days.

Pedestrians comprised almost half of those costs at 44 percent, followed by people who occupied motor vehicles at 22 percent. Motorcyclists comprised 18 percent of costs, and bicyclists represented 16 percent of hospitalization costs.

“This analysis puts into perspective the pervasiveness of traffic crashes in our society and the urgent need to invest in proven strategies to prevent crashes,” Ferrara said.

Meanwhile, the San Francisco Police Department announced Wednesday it was awarded a $255,000 grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety for a year-long program of special enforcement and public awareness efforts to prevent traffic-related deaths and injuries.

San Francisco has seen 21 traffic fatalities so far this year, according to the latest Vision Zero statistics, and 3,176 people were killed in traffic fatalities in California in 2015, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

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