Traffic Crashes Cost U.S. $340 Billion A Year, That’s $230 In Taxes For Every Household

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Motor vehicle crashes cost American society $340 billion in 2019. For taxpayers, that’s about $30 billion, or the equivalent of $230 in added taxes for every household.

Speed-related crashes alone cost an average of $141 for every person in this country.

If quality-of-life factors are added in, the total value of societal harm from motor vehicle crashes in 2019 was nearly $1.4 trillion.

Those are a few highlights from a new study announced on Tuesday by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

“This report drives home just how devastating traffic crashes are for families and the economic burden they place on society,” Ann Carlson, NHTSA’s acting administrator, said in a statement.

The report analyzed data from crashes that lead to property damage, serious injuries, fatalities and those not reported to the police.

People not directly involved in crashes pay for about three-quarters of all crash damages, primarily through insurance premiums, taxes, congestion-related costs like lost time, excess fuel consumption, and increased environmental impacts.

“The Economic and Societal Impact of Motor Vehicle Crashes, 2019,” examined the financial impact of one year of crashes that killed some 36,500 people, injured 4.5 million, and damaged 23 million vehicles. Medical costs, lost productivity, legal and court costs, emergency service costs, insurance administration costs, congestion costs, property damage, and workplace losses are some of the repercussions.

The report includes new data on the total value of seat belt use. For example, from 1975 to 2019, seat belts saved 404,000 lives and prevented $17.8 trillion in societal harm, according to the federal agency.

The report also includes data on the costs associated with motorcycle crashes, failure to wear motorcycle helmets, pedestrian crashes, and bicyclist crashes, and addressed the cost of risky driving behaviors that contribute to crashes, like alcohol use, distraction, speeding, and failure to wear a seat belt:

  • alcohol-involved crashes, for example, resulted in 14,219 fatalities, 497,000 injuries, and $68.9 billion in economic costs in 2019, accounting for 20% of all crash costs;
  • crashes where at least one driver was identified as being distracted resulted in 10,546 fatalities, 1.3 million nonfatal injuries, and $98.2 billion in economic costs in 2019, accounting for about 29% of all crash costs; and
  • seat belt use prevented more than 14,600 fatalities, 450,000 serious injuries, and $93 billion in injury-related economic costs in 2019.

During the past 30 years, roadway fatalities and the fatality rate declined consistently, but progress has stalled over the last decade and worsened in 2020 and 2021, the federal agency noted. In January 2022, it announced the National Roadway Safety Strategy, a road map for addressing the ‘sobering rise’ in the death toll, that embraces the Vision Zero or Safe System approach to road safety and design that takes human error into account, first put into effect in Sweden in the 1990s.

The goal is to eliminate all road deaths and serious injuries by creating multiple layers of protection, so if one fails, the others will create a safety net to lessen the impact of a crash. Improvements are expected to result in: safer people, safer roads, safer vehicles, safer speeds and better post-crash care.

“We need to use the safe system approach embraced in DOT’s National Roadway Safety Strategy to dramatically decrease the number and severity of crashes” Carlson, NHTSA’s acting administrator, added.

For more information and to access the full study, click here.

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