The US Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released a new study that finds the price tag for motor vehicle crashes in the US in 2010 carried a cost of $871 billion in economic loss and societal harm. This includes $277 billion in economic costs—nearly $900 for each person living in the United States based on calendar year 2010 data—and $594 billion in harm from the loss of life and the pain and decreased quality of life due to injuries.
The economic cost of motor vehicle crashes in the US is the equivalent of 1.9% of the $14.96 trillion Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2010. Factors contributing to the price tag include productivity losses, property damage, medical and rehabilitation costs, congestion costs, legal and court costs, emergency services, insurance administration costs, and the costs to employers, among others.
Some 3.9 million people were injured in 13.6 million motor vehicle crashes in 2010, including 32,999 fatalities. 24% of these injuries occurred in crashes that were not reported to police. About 23.9 million vehicles were damaged in motor vehicle crashes in 2010; 18.5 million or 77% of these vehicles were damaged in incidents that incurred property damage only. The remaining 23% involved injuries to occupants of the vehicle, or to non-occupants such as pedestrians or bicyclists.
The lifetime economic cost to society for each fatality is $1.4 million. More than 90% of this amount is attributable to lost workplace and household productivity and legal costs. Each critically injured survivor (using the MAIS 5 scale) cost an average of $1.1 million. Medical costs and lost productivity accounted for 82% of the cost for this most serious level of non-fatal injury.
Lost workplace productivity costs totaled $70.2 billion, which equaled 25% of the total costs. Lost household productivity totaled $22.9 billion, representing 8% of the total economic costs.
Overall, nearly 75% of these costs are paid through taxes, insurance premiums, and congestion related costs such as travel delay, excess fuel consumption, and increased environmental impacts. These costs, borne by society rather than individual crash victims, totaled more than $200 billion.
NHTSA last examined the cost of motor vehicle crashes in 2002, based on 2000 data, and came up with an estimate of $230.6 billion; the current estimate thus indicates an approximately 20% increase.
NHTSA’s new study, The Economic and Societal Impact of Motor Vehicle Crashes, 2010 cites several behavioral factors as contributing to the huge price-tag of roadway crashes based on the 32,999 fatalities, 3.9 million non-fatal injuries, and 24 million damaged vehicles that took place in 2010. Key findings include:
Drunk Driving: Crashes caused by drivers under the influence of alcohol accounted for 18% of the total economic loss due to motor vehicle crashes and cost the nation $49 billion—an average cost of $158 for every person in the US. Including lost quality of life, these crashes were responsible for $199 billion or 23% of the overall societal harm caused by motor vehicle crashes. More than 90% of these costs occurred in crashes involving a drunk driver with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or higher.
Speeding: Crashes involving a speeding vehicle traveling over the posted speed limit or too fast for conditions accounted for 21% of the total economic loss and cost the nation $59 billion in 2010, an average cost of $191 for every person in the US. Including lost quality of life, these crashes were responsible for $210 billion or 24% of the overall societal harm caused by motor vehicle crashes.
Distraction: Crashes involving a distracted driver accounted for 17% of the total economic loss and cost the nation $46 billion in 2010, an average cost of $148 for every person in the US. Including lost quality of life, these crashes were responsible for $129 billion or 15% of the overall societal harm caused by motor vehicle crashes.
Pedestrians and Bicyclists: Crashes involving pedestrians and bicyclists accounted for 7% of the total economic loss and cost the nation $19 billion in 2010. Including lost quality of life, these crashes were responsible for $90 billion or 10% of the overall societal harm caused by motor vehicle crashes.
Seatbelts: Seatbelt use prevented $69 billion in medical care, lost productivity, and other injury related costs. Conversely, preventable fatalities and injuries to unbelted occupants accounted for 5% of the total economic loss and cost the nation $14 billion in 2010. Including lost quality of life, failure to wear seatbelts caused $72 billion or 8% of the overall societal harm caused by motor vehicle crashes.