Crashes Cost America US$492 Billion In 2019: NHTSA

A new report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reveals vehicle crashes cost US society US$340 billion in 2019. The Economic and Societal Impact of Motor Vehicle Crashes 2019 report examined the costs of one year of incidents that killed an estimated 36,500 people, injured 4.5 million, and damaged 23 million vehicles.

The US$340 billion cost represents the equivalent of US$1035 for each of the 328 million people in the US, and 1.6 per cent of the US$21.4 trillion real US gross domestic product (GDP) for 2019.

According to the NHTSA, people not involved in crashes pay for roughly three-quarters of all crash costs, mainly through insurance premiums, taxes, congestion-related costs – such as lost time and excess fuel consumption – and increased environmental impacts.

Crashes cost taxpayers US$30 billion in 2019 – roughly nine per cent of all motor vehicle crash costs. This is the equivalent of US$230 in added taxes for every household in the US. These losses include medical costs, lost productivity, legal and court costs, emergency service costs, insurance administration costs, congestion costs, property damage, and workplace losses. The figures include police‐reported and unreported crashes.

When quality-of-life valuations are considered, the total value of societal harm from motor vehicle crashes in 2019 was declared to be nearly US$1.4 trillion.

“This report drives home just how devastating traffic crashes are for families and the economic burden they place on society,” said Ann Carlson, NHTSA Acting Administrator. “We need to use the safe system approach embraced in DOT’s (Department of Transportation) National Roadway Safety Strategy to dramatically decrease the number and severity of crashes – safer roads, safer people, safer vehicles, safer speeds, and better post-crash care.”

The report includes new data on the total value of seat belt use, which shows that from 1975 to 2019, seat belt use saved 404,000 lives and prevented US$17.8 trillion in societal harm.

The Economic and Societal Impact of Motor Vehicle Crashes 2019 also looks at the cost of risky driving behaviours that contributed to crashes involving fatalities, serious injuries, and property damage only, including:

  • Alcohol: Alcohol-involved crashes resulted in 14,219 fatalities, 497,000 injuries, and US$68.9 billion in economic costs in 2019, accounting for 20 per cent of all crash costs. Crashes involving alcohol levels of 0.08 blood-alcohol concentration or higher were responsible for more than 90 per cent of the economic costs and societal harm from crashes attributable to alcohol use.
  • Distraction: Crashes, where at least one driver was identified as being distracted, resulted in 10,546 fatalities, 1.3 million non-fatal injuries, and US$98.2 billion in economic costs in 2019, accounting for about 29 per cent of all crash costs.
  • Failure to wear a seat belt: Failure to buckle up caused 2400 avoidable fatalities, 46,000 serious injuries, and cost society US$11 billion in easily preventable injury-related costs, accounting for about three per cent of all crash costs. Seat belt use prevented more than 14,600 fatalities, 450,000 serious injuries, and US$93 billion in injury-related economic costs in 2019.
  • Speeding: Speed-related crashes are associated with 10,192 fatalities, 498,000 non-fatal injuries, and US$46 billion in economic costs in 2019, accounting for 14 per cent of all economic costs. Speed-related crashes cost an average of US$141 for every person in the US.

The report also includes data on the costs associated with motorcycle crashes, failure to wear motorcycle helmets, pedestrian crashes, bicycle crashes, and numerous different roadway designation crashes.