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NHTSA calculates US motor vehicle crashes in 2010 cost $871B in economic loss and societal harm

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.


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This is another reason we need Google's autonomous vehicles to take care of door to door transportation of humans, pets and packages. Can't wait to see Google launch this service. It will really be disruptive for not just the automotive industry but also taxi's and public transportation in general.

The autonomous vehicle could transport people and stuff 24/7 all year round so the vehicle cost can be very low per mile driven and made as BEVs the fuel cost will also be very low. Also a 100 miles electric range will be plenty for most autonomous vehicles as you can always pick up another vehicle with a fresh battery if you need to go longer. 40 million autonomous vehicles operated as fleet services by Google, Tesla, Amazon and others would probably be enough to do all person transportation in the US and much goods delivery. And it would guarantee you could pick one vehicle up within 2 minutes using your smart phone wherever you are in an environment where people live or work.

Frankly I do not think the next generation will spend time and money getting a driver license. In 2040 a driver license could be a curiosity of the past and maybe even sooner.

Amazon is working on quadrocopter goods delivery within the hour. However, as batteries gets better we may also see autonomous ground vehicle transportation systems for people supplemented with larger short-range quadrocopters picking up cabins with one or two people and flying them to wherever they want. Again range is not so much an issue as another quadrocopters with a fresh battery takes over when the first one is depleted. In any case I am seriously convinced that the transportation sector is going through some transformative changes in the coming decades.


Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) along with autonomous vehicles for the "last mile."


I have to agree with most of Henrik's and Martin's predictions.

Autonomous driverless electrified vehicles (ground and mini-airborne) will certainly transform transportation means starting in the 2020s.

Imagine all the positive impacts on lives, injuries, property damages, health (GHG) and health care cost etc possible when human drivers ad ICEVs are removed.

Handicapped and very old people in electric wheelchairs will be able to board their adapted personal autonomous EV transporter and go where they want to go (or to the nearest hospital or medical facilities when the need is detected) without assistance.

Mothers will not longer have to play 'taxis, for kids. The automated drive EV transporters will fulfill that role for a few cents.

Speed cops and speed traps will become redundant because autonomous drive vehicles will fully respect the speed limits and other traffic regulations.

Car insurance premium will drop by as much as 90%.

More than half the repair shops will close.


Part of the above savings ($125B to $250B over the next 20-25 years) could be used to install 100,000 combined H2 stations + H2 storage & quick charge e-stations using clean electricity from intermittent sources such as Wind and Solar.

It shouldn't be a major problem to find ways to transfer $5B to $10B a year from current accidents to the above program.

Roger Pham

Except that a human professional driver can drive a 12-20-passenger van and can pick up and drop people door-to-door just as good as any robocar can do!

This will help reduce the welfare and foodstamp rosters, because most of the manufacturing jobs are already outsourced overseas, while menial labor jobs are taken up by illegal immigrants, and the gov. plan to raise the minimum wage thus will shut down a lot of fast-food joints, unless they will be staffed by illegal immigrants!


Roger, I am having difficulty following your thoughts. Sorry.

Harvey, What you say may be true, but the savings will go to individuals who will spend their share of the savings in many ways, maybe at the fast food joint that pays the higher minimum wage. Anyway, no central government or business will use it to install H2 stations.

Roger Pham

My point is that robocars will take away jobs from professional human-driven vehicles. A van the size of an airport shuttle van can be used to pick up and drop off people door-to-door into a light-rail train route or within a suburban region. One van can carry up to 20 people and can remove as many as 19 cars off the road, and will significantly remove the probability of collisions significantly. Plus, these vans are professionally-driven and not by sleepy, dazed, angry, or cell-phone busy people...etc.


Thanks Roger. Now I get your point.


RP...don't you think that autonomous drive vans or mini-buses will evenually pick-up the same 19 passengers or so with less delays and accidents.

The same argument was used 60+ years ago when 100% of the elevator operators were replaced (removed)

Our 'so called professional city bus drivers' have many accidents most every day. They are the worse bike, pedestrian and car crushers. They can run over you and be 100% protected by their union and employer. The worse cases get 30 to 90 days fully paid leave. Their medical doctor often recommends 30+ days in Florida, specially in the winter months.

The soonest they are replaced, many will be better off.

Roger Pham

It seems like your city should look into the workers' union situation to see if this is a type of unlawful monopolistic practice.

There's a law against anti-competition trade practice and the workers' union should be sued for engaging in this regard. Workers should be allowed to compete amongs each other with respect to competence and productivity. The bus company should have the right to dismiss workers who are endangering the public.

The problem is not the human driver. The problem is the constituency that allows such an anti-competition trade practice to exist. Of course, it is the same constituency that allows SOCIALIZED MEDICINE to exist, and the many horrible things that is associated with socialized medicine...and any social programs that are against human competition...

We human and all living things evolved due to a natural competition and natural selection...The fittest survive, reproduce the most, and pass on their genes...the lesser fit will produce fewer offsprings and their genes would not spread as far nor as wide...The very social welfare program that rewards unlimited number of offsprings for those who cannot work goes completely against this...While those who do work do not want to have more than 1-2 children. No wonder the slow decline of Western Civilization!!!

Meanwhile, in China, Only ONE offspring is allowed per couple...unless you have the financial ability to pay to have more children...The more productive will become more reproductive and pass on their productive genes...Hence perhaps partially explains the rise of China.



I cannot agree with you on:

1. Survival of the most fitted and the most fortunate for humans. That would lead to crazy Kings and Queens etc. However, increasing pollution (often created to maximize the profit margins) is having very negative effects on the health of new born children

2. The one child per couple in China was imposed on every body (not only the best fitted) to reduce the total population to match food production. That rule was recently relaxed to 2 per couple because China can use some of its huge trade surpluses to import food. Secondly, the local food production was increased with improved farming methods, so much so, that obesity is becoming a major problem. A 3+ children per couple may be required to balance the situation. If used, China's population would very quickly reach over 2B and so will India. Those two countries could have almost half of the world population by 2050 or so. They could also have the smartest specimens.

Roger Pham


1. The more intelligent a human being, the easier for that person to see or to learn that sustainable living will provide the best outcome. Those who are less intelligent will more likely be swayed by disinformation against the "inconvenient truth." After all, intelligence is the ability to learn and to adapt to new information and new situation. Those with lesser intellectual capability will cling on to old-fashioned the Earth is square and is the center of the universe and that human activities cannot change the global climate...etc

Had the American Voters and Leadership been more intelligent, they would have long-ago realized that assessing tariffs on products from countries with lower standards would be the best way to preserve American jobs AND to improve the world's environment and to minimize pollution. Even the people in China would benefit from this because China would be forced to upgrade their environment and labor standards on par with the USA in order to avoid tariffs. Instead, GW escalated, the World is more polluted than ever, and most of American Manufacturing base was decimated...China steadily gains power from the massive infusion of technologies and investments... and is now threatening their neighbor and soon the rest of the world!

2. Mao Ze Dong, being a socialist and communist, would not have realized the positive outcome of his "one-child but pay if you want more" policy. The relaxation of the "one-child rule" to two-child rule will bring down China's continual rise, and the rest of the world can breath easier!

What they should have done is to continue with the one-child policy, because as more Chinese are becoming affluent, more will be able to pay fines to have more than one child, so that only the poor will have one child, while the more affluent will have two or more children...and the Chinese will one day rule the World with the largest numbers of high-caliber scientists, engineers, managers, technicians, turn the rest of the world into China's colonies.

As for the West to maintain the leadership position: One child per welfare family, while requiring continual birth control to receive welfare checks, while generous tax percentage breaks for each children above one...such that the rich will have the most children due to getting the highest tax breaks, while the poor will only be able to afford 1-2 children due to lesser tax break and less able to afford child care. This will be the best policy to fight poverty.
Since "the apples don't fall far from the tree," future population will become more capable and productive if this policy is to be enacted.



One thing that I can agree with you is that China will soon be the leading country of the world. To do that, China will need more people in the army, airforce, navy, police force, doctors, engineers, scientific, factory workers, teachers, business leaders etc. The current 1.35B people may not be enough. Relaxing control over the family size is required for one or two generations or up to 2+B.

China already has top researchers, architects, engineers, software and hardware engineers and will have many more in years ahead.

One of our grand son is a full time student in a mainland China University and well on his way to master the complex Mandarin language, with the help of his Chinese girlfriend and colleagues. He teaches English and French in his spare times. He is very busy but an A+ student. He lives on campus and SKYPE is an excellent contact medium. The University fees are about 1/10 Canada's and 1/100 USA's.

Roger Pham

I also hope that you can also agree with me on the need to breed better future human beings to cope with a more complex future, rather than simply replacing human beings with robots!

You see, robots are a distinct species and not flesh and blood like us...unless you're a computer bot disguised as a human blogger, LOL...!!! It is in our instinct to protect our own flesh and blood instead of surrendering our own species in a wholesale fashion to robots that are silicon based and are nothing like us!

No matter what race, ethnic or nationality each one of us may be, we human can understand, relate to, and love each other much better than we can relate to robots.


Very few really missed elevator operators, pony express riders, cotton pickers, tobacco growers and pickers, manual potato pickers, manual car washers, manual grain harvesters, steam locomotives firemen and 1001 other manual jobs currently done my machines or robots.

Nobody will really miss city bus drivers, taxis drivers, truck drivers, coal miners, CPPs operators, NPPs operators, electricity meter readers, war plane pilots, pizza delivery boys, junk food under paid employees, etc when those jobs have been fully automated or eliminated.

The days when 97% have to work long hours at minimum wages (and even much below) to survive and the other 3% or fewer get most of the wealth and extreme high (almost tax free) pay may be mostly behind us.

TELUS Canada President was paid $87,600,000 last year (an increase of 45% over the previous year) while most of their employees were paid less than $35,000 or less than 1% more than the previous year. The salary spread is just too much.

Roger Pham

I will miss them, Harvey! I prefer a human cashier at supermarket, a human chauffeur, a human waitress at a restaurant and preferably a young and pretty female...

People will need jobs, not just for the income, but for their self-esteem of being useful and having a sense of contributing to society.

People with limited intellectual capacity and simple mindedness cannot do much else besides menial jobs that do not require much thinking, planning, or complex execution.

In time, with selective breeding wherein the birth rates of simple-minded people will really be curtailed, as I've outlined, we will have a society full of intellectuals, scientists, engineers, doctors, lawyers who will depend on robots for simple menial services. Until then, we will need to preserve the simple and low-paying jobs for the vast number of simple-minded people that we have around, instead of assigning these jobs to robots and having most people on welfare and doing nothing good for society!

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