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The true costs of highway crashes

Posted on May 29, 2014

A new study published by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows significant annual costs for highway crashes. The study, valuing the economic loss and societal harm of 2010 highway crashes, values this cost at $871 billion. $277 billion of this value is due to economic costs while $594 billion is due to societal harm from loss of life and pain and suffering.

The NHTSA study “The Economic and Society Impact of Motor Vehicle Crashes, 2010” available here also details some of the behavioral factors that contribute to 2010’s 33,000 highway deaths, 3.9 million injuries and 24 million damaged vehicles. The study shows that three of the main driver behaviors that cause accidents (speeding, drunk driving and distracted driving) account for 56% of the economic loss and 62% of the societal harm of motor vehicle accidents. Overall, about 9% of these costs are paid for from public sources such as federal or state governments.

Some interesting snippets of the study show the following:

  1. The impact of intoxicated driving increases with injury severity. Crashes involving an intoxicated person account for 48% of all fatal injury crash costs. We've discussed the severity of drunk driving crashes before.
  2. 98% of societal harm from crashes involving alcohol occurred in crashes where drivers had a BAC of .08 or higher.
  3. seat belt use prevented 12,500 fatalities and 308,000 serious injuries, saving $349 billion in comprehensive costs.
  4. Over the past 36 years, seat belts have prevented 280,000 fatalities and 7.2 million serious injuries saving over $8 trillion in comprehensive costs.

Moral of the story: Always wear your seat belt and never drink and drive. Drive safe!