THE ECONOMIC AND SOCIETAL IMPACT OF MOTOR VEHICLE CRASHES: $871 BILLION ACCORDING TO NEW STUDY

The United States Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) released a new study, “The Economic and Societal Impact of Motor Vehicle Crashes, 2010,” on May 28, 2014 that examines the  financial impact car accidents have in America.[1] According to the study, the price tag for car accidents on America’s roads and highways is a staggering $871 billion.

In arriving at this figure, the NHTSA study analyzed data from 2010. That year, 32,999 people were killed, 3.9 million people were injured, and 24 million vehicles were destroyed in automobile crashes in the United States. Economic costs which include time out of work, medical expenses, insurance administration costs, road congestion , property damage and court fees, accounts for $277 billion. The remaining $594 billion is attributed to the loss of life, pain, suffering and decreased quality of life due to injuries sustained in collisions.

The study also made several key findings regarding the causes of car crashes:

  • 13,323 fatalities, 430,000 nonfatal injuries, and $59.4 billion in economic costs stem from alcohol related collisions. This amounts to 21 percent of all crash costs in America.
  • The vast majority of alcohol related crash costs involve motorists who were legally intoxicated at the time of the collision. Crashes involving drivers or non-occupants who meet the legal definition for intoxication (.08 blood alcohol content) accounts for 84 percent of the total economic cost of all alcohol-involved crashes.
  • Injuries are more severe in alcohol related collisions. Alcohol-involved crashes accounted for 14 percent of property-damage-only crash costs, 17 percent of nonfatal injury crash costs and 48 percent of fatal injury crash costs.
  • Crashes caused by intoxicated driving resulted in 11,226 fatalities, 326,000 nonfatal injuries and $49 billion in economic costs.
  • Crashes in which at least one driver was exceeding the legal speed limit or driving too fast for conditions cost $59.1 billion.
  • Speed-related crashes are associated with 10,536 fatalities, 800,000 nonfatal injuries and damage to 3 million vehicles in property-damage-only crashes. This represents 32 percent of all fatalities, 20 percent of all nonfatal injuries and 16 percent of all property-damage-only crashes.
  • Speed-related crashes cost an average of $191 for every person in the United States.
  • Crashes in which at least one driver was identified as being distracted resulted in 3,267 fatalities, 735,000 nonfatal injuries and damaged 3.3 million vehicles in property-damage-only crashes in 2010. This represents about 10 percent of all motor vehicle fatalities and 18 percent of all nonfatal crashes. These crashes cost $45.8 billion.

These astronomically high numbers make clear that automobile collisions affect every American. The $277 billion in economic costs attributed to accidents – which are carried by every American — works out to roughly $897 for every person living in the United States. Hopefully these figures will help to shed light on the enormous economic toll car crashes have on society as a whole and will result in safer driving for everyone on America’s roads and highways.

About the Author: David Williams is a personal injury attorney working in the Garrisonville, Virginia office of the law firm of Allen & Allen. He focuses his legal career almost exclusively on personal injury law, wrongful death and products liability cases. David serves clients across Northern Virginia and Central Virginia and has successfully argued cases before the Virginia Supreme Court.


[1] The complete study is available online at: http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/812013.pdf .