Car accidents carry a heavy price tag for Americans, regardless of whether or not they've been involved in a crash themselves.

Economic burdens associated with crashes cost every person in the United States about $900 per year, according to a study released Thursday by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that analyzed the economic and societal costs of car accidents in 2010.

Roadway crashes that year cost 32,999 people their lives, caused 3.9 million injuries and damaged 24 million vehicles. Overall, the costs associated with the crashes amount to $871 billion, according to the study, "The Economic and Societal Impact of Motor Vehicle Crashes, 2010" [PDF]. Approximately $277 billion are economic costs, and $594 billion in harm from loss of life and decreased quality of life due to injuries, researchers say.

"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," US Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx said in a written statement (available below).

The economic cost accounted for 1.9 percent of the country's $14.96-trillion gross domestic product in 2010. That price tag includes property damage, productivity losses, legal costs, emergency services, and others. Three-quarters of these costs are paid through taxes, insurance premiums and congestion-related costs, NHTSA said.
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New NHTSA Study Shows Motor Vehicle Crashes Have $871 Billion Economic and Societal Impact on U.S. Citizens

NHTSA 19-14
Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Economic costs alone are nearly $900 for each person living in the U.S.

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) today released a new study that underscores the high economic toll and societal impact of motor vehicle crashes in the United States. The price tag for crashes comes at a heavy burden for Americans at $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.

"No amount of money can replace the life of a loved one, or stem the suffering associated with motor vehicle crashes," said U.S. Secretary Anthony Foxx. "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."

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 percent 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 U.S. Including lost quality of life, these crashes were responsible for $199 billion or 23 percent of the overall societal harm caused by motor vehicle crashes. Over 90 percent 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 percent of the total economic loss and cost the nation $59 billion in 2010, an average cost of $191 for every person in the U.S. Including lost quality of life, these crashes were responsible for $210 billion or 24 percent of the overall societal harm caused by motor vehicle crashes.
Distraction: Crashes involving a distracted driver accounted for 17 percent of the total economic loss and cost the nation $46 billion in 2010, an average cost of $148 for every person in the U.S. Including lost quality of life, these crashes were responsible for $129 billion or 15 percent of the overall societal harm caused by motor vehicle crashes.

Pedestrians and Bicyclists: Crashes involving pedestrians and bicyclists accounted for 7 percent 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 percent 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 percent 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 percent of the overall societal harm caused by motor vehicle crashes.

"We want Americans to live long and productive lives, but vehicle crashes all too often make that impossible," said NHTSA Acting Administrator David Friedman. "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."

The economic cost of motor vehicle crashes in the U.S. is the equivalent of 1.9 percent 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. Overall, nearly 75 percent 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 over $200 billion.


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  • 59 Comments
      b.rn
      • 7 Months Ago
      $900 annually? I pay more than that in insurance.
        superlightv12
        • 7 Months Ago
        @b.rn
        Maybe you should learn to drive better?
          b.rn
          • 7 Months Ago
          @superlightv12
          My record is clean. Unfortunately they base your rates off more than your driving record..
      Hoosierron
      • 7 Months Ago
      How much in taxes does the NHTSA cost every (tax paying) American every year?
        mycommentemail
        • 7 Months Ago
        @Hoosierron
        Well, let's see now. In 2013 the NHTSA had a budget of around 800 Million. There are (roughly) 140 Million tax returns filed. So that means each return owed just under $6 to cover the department... if you just divide it evenly. Just for some context: The NSA is estimated to have a budget of about $10 Billion. Or $71 per taxpayer using the same simple arithmetic. The defense budget as a whole: $75 Billion, or $536 per taxpayer. EPA: 7.9 Billion, or $56 per taxpayer Department of Education: $70 Billion, or $500 per taxpayer. PBS: 445 Million, or $3 per taxpayer. Iraq and Afghanistan wars (estimated) 6 Trillion, or about $43,000 per taxpayer.
          in2dwww
          • 7 Months Ago
          @mycommentemail
          $800MM is a large budget for an agency that blames accidents on vehicles, pedestrians, and drivers rather than appalling roads and shitty civil engineering. "NHTSA is a relatively small agency, with only about 630 employees, and many other important responsibilities. Only approximately 100 of the agency’s workforce are assigned to the enforcement area, about half of which are assigned to the Office of Defects Investigation (ODI). ODI is overworked and understaffed. ODI is responsible for investigating safety-related defects in the nation’s fleet of over 220 million motor vehicles, and hundreds of millions of items of motor vehicle equipment, including tires and child safety seats. Of ODI’s staff of approximately 50, only some 15-20 have been engineers or investigators who directly run safety defect investigations. In a typical year, ODI opens only 80 -100 defect investigations." Taken from: http://www.garyeto.com/auto/nhtsa.html They should focus on safer roads through better road building. Have they ever released a report on the safety of stop signs vs round-abouts? Or are they just concerned about auto manufacturer and insurance lobbyists?
          eye.surgeon
          • 7 Months Ago
          @mycommentemail
          Gotta love the occupy wallstreet crowd...their contribution to every conversation is either George Bush or their ridiculously overstated cost of the Iraq war, which assigns the cost of the entire US military to a single conflict as though it was built and maintained for that single action.
          knightrider_6
          • 7 Months Ago
          @mycommentemail
          Gotta love the tea party crowd. They care more about 4 people dying in war zone but not about 40000 people dying because of lack of healthcare
          in2dwww
          • 7 Months Ago
          @mycommentemail
          $800MM is a large budget for an agency that blames accidents on vehicles, pedestrians, and drivers rather than appalling roads and shitty civil engineering. "NHTSA is a relatively small agency, with only about 630 employees, and many other important responsibilities. Only approximately 100 of the agency’s workforce are assigned to the enforcement area, about half of which are assigned to the Office of Defects Investigation (ODI). ODI is overworked and understaffed. ODI is responsible for investigating safety-related defects in the nation’s fleet of over 220 million motor vehicles, and hundreds of millions of items of motor vehicle equipment, including tires and child safety seats. Of ODI’s staff of approximately 50, only some 15-20 have been engineers or investigators who directly run safety defect investigations. In a typical year, ODI opens only 80 -100 defect investigations." Taken from: http://www.garyeto.com/auto/nhtsa.html They should focus on safer roads through better road building. Have they ever released a report on the safety of stop signs vs round-abouts? Or are they just concerned about auto manufacturer and insurance lobbyists?
      jesscott
      • 7 Months Ago
      Nonsense. I love "art with Numbers" because you can create pretty much anything if you have an agenda.
        Edsel
        • 7 Months Ago
        @jesscott
        Yup. Alternatively, I could create an economic document that proves that with every roadway fatality society saves billions of dollars every year; population stabilizes, road congestion stabilizes, school populations decrease, less demand upon natural resources..... Highway mayhem and chaos makes economic sense. /s
      Max
      • 7 Months Ago
      Call me skeptical, but I believe the figure should be higher. On the other hand, accidents create a slew of jobs in sectors including, healthcare (doctor, nurses, EMT, admin), insurance (sales, investment, investigation), auto (manufacturing, repair, sales), infrastructure repair, & etc...there are better ways to create jobs than accidents.
      Davey Hiltz
      • 1 Month Ago

      That's a lot of money that pays for a lot of accidents. How much of that is covered by insurance? I would assume that it would be a pretty hefty amount. Well, the most we can say we're thankful for is that we don't live in a world directed by Michael Bay. 

      http://www.lprlaw.com/Personal-Injury/Motor-Vehicle-Accidents.shtml 

      windexsunday
      • 7 Months Ago
      Type your comment hereSo the NHTSA releases a study which is essentially a study about how important the NHTSA is. Wow, color me surprised. For those that find this information important, you should know the tobacco industry has studies that say cigarettes don't cause cancer and aren't addicting and the cable industry lobbying group has studies that prove we don't need net neutrality.
      • 7 Months Ago
      [blocked]
      Hybridnetics
      • 7 Months Ago
      Call me critical, but I think all buses (excluding urban city transport buses) should be banned from using the roadways. Or at the very least, they should have seat belts.
        kqr
        • 7 Months Ago
        @Hybridnetics
        Huh? You want to ban the vehicles with by far the lowest fatality rate? Nonsense. Commercial buses along with passenger rail are statistically the safest way to surface travel by far, and neither have seat belts in the vast majority of instances. Rates vary slightly by year, but passenger cars typically have a fatality rate 15 - 20 times that of commercial buses. By your logic, maybe we should "ban" passenger cars? Only scheduled commercial air has a slightly lower fatality rate than commercial buses and passenger trains. If you're also referring to school buses, those kids would be eight times more likely to die if they were riding in a passenger car, and again, very few school buses have seat belts (stats per 100 million vehicle miles traveled). Even beyond the statistics that show they're not needed, seat belts on buses is not a slam-dunk magic wand. The subject is far more complicated than you seem to realize. Testing has shown that in many bus crash scenarios, belts could actually increase the risk of neck, back, and abdominal injuries. Do some research and be enlightened.
        kqr
        • 7 Months Ago
        @Hybridnetics
        Huh? You want to ban the vehicles with by far the lowest fatality rate? Nonsense. Commercial buses along with passenger rail are statistically the safest way to surface travel by far, and neither have seat belts in the vast majority of instances. Rates vary slightly by year, but passenger cars typically have a fatality rate 15 - 20 times that of commercial buses. Maybe we should "ban" passenger cars instead? Only scheduled commercial air has a slightly lower fatality rate than commercial buses and passenger trains. If you're also referring to school buses, those kids would be eight times more likely to die if they were riding in a passenger car, and again, very few school buses have seat belts (stats per 100 million vehicle miles traveled). Even beyond the statistics that show they're not needed, seat belts on buses is not a slam-dunk magic wand. The subject is far more complicated than you seem to realize. Testing has shown that in many bus crash scenarios, belts could actually increase the risk of neck, back, and abdominal injuries. Do some research and be enlightened.
        kqr
        • 7 Months Ago
        @Hybridnetics
        Nonsense. Commercial buses along with passenger rail are statistically the safest way to surface travel by far, and neither have seat belts in the vast majority of instances. Rates vary slightly by year, but passenger cars typically have a fatality rate 15 - 20 times that of commercial buses. Only scheduled commercial air has a slightly lower fatality rate than commercial buses and passenger trains. If you're also referring to school buses, those kids would be eight times more likely to die if they were riding in a passenger car, and again, very few school buses have seat belts (stats per 100 million vehicle miles traveled). Even beyond the statistics that show they're not needed, seat belts on buses is not a slam-dunk magic wand. The subject is far more complicated than you seem to realize. Testing has shown that in many bus crash scenarios, belts could actually increase the risk of neck, back, and abdominal injuries.
        kqr
        • 7 Months Ago
        @Hybridnetics
        Nonsense. Commercial buses along with passenger rail are statistically the safest way to surface travel by far, and neither have seat belts in the vast majority of instances. Rates vary slightly by year, but passenger cars typically have a fatality rate 15 - 20 times that of commercial buses. Only scheduled commercial air has a slightly lower fatality rate than commercial buses and passenger trains. If you're also referring to school buses, those kids would be eight times more likely to die if they were riding in a passenger car, and again, very few school buses have seat belts (re: NTSA per 100 million vehicle miles traveled). Even beyond the statistics that show they're not needed, seat belts on buses is not a slam-dunk magic wand. The subject is far more complicated than you seem to realize. Testing has shown that in many bus crash scenarios, belts could actually increase the risk of neck, back, and abdominal injuries. Research, read, and be enlightened.
        kqr
        • 7 Months Ago
        @Hybridnetics
        Nonsense. Commercial buses along with passenger rail are statistically the safest way to surface travel by far, and neither have seat belts in many/most instances. Rates vary slightly by year, but passenger cars typically have a fatality rate 15 - 20 times that of commercial buses. Only scheduled commercial air has a slightly lower fatality rate than commercial buses and passenger trains. If you're also referring to school buses, those kids would be eight times more likely to die if they were riding in a passenger car, and again, very few school buses have seat belts (re: NTSA per 100 million vehicle miles traveled). Even beyond the statistics that show they're not needed, seat belts on buses is not a slam-dunk magic wand. The subject is far more complicated than you seem to realize. Testing has shown that in many bus crash scenarios, belts could actually increase the risk of neck, back, and abdominal injuries. Research, read, and be enlightened.
        Jso Rsa
        • 7 Months Ago
        @Hybridnetics
        Huh? You want to ban the vehicles with by far the lowest fatality rate? Nonsense. Commercial buses along with passenger rail are statistically the safest way to surface travel by far, and neither have seat belts in the vast majority of instances. Rates vary slightly by year, but passenger cars typically have a fatality rate 15 - 20 times that of commercial buses. By your logic, maybe we should "ban" passenger cars? Only scheduled commercial air has a slightly lower fatality rate than commercial buses and passenger trains. If you're also referring to school buses, those kids would be eight times more likely to die if they were riding in a passenger car, and again, very few school buses have seat belts (stats per 100 million vehicle miles traveled). Even beyond the statistics that show they're not needed, seat belts on buses is not a slam-dunk magic wand. The subject is far more complicated than you seem to realize. Testing has shown that in many bus crash scenarios, belts could actually increase the risk of neck, back, and abdominal injuries. Do some research and be enlightened.
      n1khb
      • 7 Months Ago
      Almost all of these crashes (I don't even like the word "accident") could be prevented with improved driving skills and more experience. The days of turning a 16 year old loose to do whatever they please on the roads for the rest of their lives should be over. That's not to say that teens are the prime cause by themselves, but that's the age where they develop all of the bad habits that continue into adulthood. The laws are there for a reason and every time you don't look and signal before a maneuver, run a stop sign or a light, lane drift, etc. etc. you are breaking the law AND putting lives in danger. Never mind this crap about self driving cars, etc. And government doesn't help a bit by turning a blind eye, and consider the situation to be normal as long as you have insurance. Insurance is not a substitute for driving skill. Neither are vehicle safety features.
      Willie
      • 7 Months Ago
      well corporate subsidies cost 4000, so how about some regulation to fix that?
      eye.surgeon
      • 7 Months Ago
      Newsflash: the NHTSA pays for a study saying how important the NHTSA is.
        knightrider_6
        • 7 Months Ago
        @eye.surgeon
        It's like how Defense Department keeps coming up with fake threats of WMDs to justify its own existence except that their budget is 1000 times more than NHTSA.
        knightrider_6
        • 7 Months Ago
        @eye.surgeon
        It's like how Defense Department keeps coming up with fake threats of WMDs to justify it's own existence except that their budget is 1000 times more than NHTSA.
        knightrider_6
        • 7 Months Ago
        @eye.surgeon
        It's like how Defense Department keeps coming up with fake threats of WMDs to justify it's own existence except that their budget is 1000 times more than NHTSA.
      SloopJohnB
      • 7 Months Ago
      Well, do the same math for handgun death and injury in the US. I'm not in favor of registering handguns and other non-class III weapons either. (I'm not in favor of registering class III weapons either but that ship sailed in the 30s and was modified in '68…) Car control seems to work as well as gun control doesn't…. Fair disclosure..NRA member
        icemilkcoffee
        • 7 Months Ago
        @SloopJohnB
        I don't know what you are getting at, but cars have been getting safer all the time, and the accident per mile traveled has been dropping all the time. It's kind of hard to do the same study for gun deaths because the NRA doesn't like the US government studying gun deaths.
          Glenn
          • 7 Months Ago
          @icemilkcoffee
          Homicide rates have been dropping for 30 years. http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0873729.html
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