Economic cost of crashes in 2010 was $277 billion, NHTSA says

Foxx: "Today’s report clearly demonstrates that investments in safety are worth every penny."

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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration today revealed that the total economic cost of car crashes in the United States rose 20 percent from a decade before to $277 billion for the 33,000 deaths and 3.9 million injuries that occurred in 2010.

That economic cost includes $34.9 billion in medical costs, $76.1 billion in property damage losses, $93.1 billion in lost productivity and $28 billion in congestion impacts, the agency said in a report today. The cost represents about $897 for each U.S. citizen and 1.9 percent of the $14.96 trillion gross domestic product in 2010, it said.

On top of the $277 billion in total economic costs, NHTSA said costs for the loss of life and decreased quality of life because of injuries totaled $594 billion, making the total survey of costs $870.8 billion.

The study showed that distracted-driving crashes in 2010 accounted for 17 percent of the total economic loss, costing citizens $46 billion, and 15 percent of the overall societal harm from lost quality of life. The cost of crashes caused by drunken drivers represented 18 percent of the total economic loss, costing citizens $49 billion, and over 90 percent of those costs occurred in accidents involving drivers with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 or higher.

The NHTSA study found that the cost of crashes caused by driving faster than the posted speed limit or too fast for conditions was 21 percent of the total economic loss, costing the nation $59 billion.

The study also found that seat-belt use prevented $69 billion in medical care in 2010, but preventable fatalities and injuries to unbelted passengers accounted for 5 percent of the total economic loss and cost citizens $14 billion. The overall societal harm totaled $72 billion.

NHTSA said that about 75 percent of those economic costs were paid through taxes, insurance premiums and congestion-related costs such as travel delay and excess fuel consumption. Those costs, endured by society instead of individual crash victims, came to more than $200 billion.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement today: “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.”

You can reach Nora Naughton at nnaughton@crain.com.

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