Federal Report: Motor Vehicle Crashes Cost U.S. Economy $871 Billion Per Year

According to a May 2014 report released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), automobile crashes cost the U.S. economy $871 billion in 2010. The costs include lost productivity, property damage, and medical and rehabilitation care. The economic impact also includes court and legal costs, emergency services costs as well as costs associated to insurance premiums. In addition, the $871 billion figure factors into account the costs associated with reduced quality-of-life suffered by crash victims. The direct economic impact of vehicle accidents is $277 billion, or 1.9 percent of the U.S. GDP, which is $14.96 trillion.

big crash.jpgIn 2010, car accidents caused 32,999 fatalities, 3.9 million injuries and 24 million damaged cars. Several key factors are responsible for these costly car crashes. First, drunk driving accidents are responsible for a large portion of fatalities and economic costs; drunk driving accidents result in 13,323 fatalities and 430,000 injuries. Moreover, DWIs cost the economy $199 billion in 2010. Speeding is also a major contributing factor in many car crashes. Speeding accidents contributed to 10,536 fatalities and 800,000 injuries. Accidents caused by speeding cost the U.S. economy $210 billion. In addition, distracted driving result in 3,267 fatalities and 735,000 injuries. Distracted driving accidents accounted for $129 billion in economic losses. Accidents involving pedestrians or bicyclists resulted in $90 billion in costs to the U.S. economy.

Over the past several decades, seat belt use has prevented many car crash fatalities and injuries. In 2010, seat belt use prevented 12,500 deaths and 308,000 injuries. Seat belt use also saved $69 billion in healthcare-related costs. However, during 2010, accidents involving people no wearing seat belts resulted in 3,350 fatalities and 54,300 serious injuries. Such accidents cost the U.S. economy $72 billion. Since 1975, car accidents involving people not wearing seat belts have cost the U.S. economy $1.5 trillion.

Commenting on the report, NHTSA acting administrator David Friedman remarked, “We want Americans to live long and productive lives, but vehicle crashes all too often make that impossible. This new report underscores the importance of our safety mission and why our efforts and those of our partners to tackle these important behavioral issues and make vehicles safer are essential to our quality of life and our economy.”

U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx stated that the federal government is interested in researching and finding new ways that can prevent costly car crashes, fatalities and injuries. He remarked, “No amount of money can replace the life of a loved one, or stem the suffering associated with motor vehicle crashes. While the economic and societal costs of crashes are staggering, today’s report clearly demonstrates that investments in safety are worth every penny used to reduce the frequency and severity of these tragic events.”

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