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Economic Impacts of Motor Vehicle Crashes

Economic Impacts of Motor Vehicle Crashes

Motor vehicle crashes in the United States cost an estimated $231 billion1$820 per person or 2 percent of the Gross Domestic Product2 [1]. The largest components of the total cost (26 percent each) are market productivity—the cost of foregone paid labor due to death and disability—and property damage (figure 70). Household productivity—the cost of foregone household (unpaid) labor—accounted for 9 percent of the total cost. Workplace cost (2 percent) is the disruption from the loss or absence of an employee such that it requires training a new employee, overtime to accomplish the work of the injured employee, and administrative costs to process personnel changes.

Alcohol-involved crashes cost $50.9 billion or 22 percent of the total costs. Costs related to speeding were estimated to be $40.4 billion, 18 percent of the total. The failure of drivers and passengers to wear safety belts cost an estimated $26 billion, but the use of safety belts saved $50 billion [1].

Ultimately, all people pay for the cost of motor vehicle crashes through insurance premiums, taxes, out-of-pocket expenses, and the like. About one-quarter of the cost of crashes is paid directly by those involved, while society in general pays the rest (figure 71). Insurance companies, funded by all insured drivers whether they are involved in a crash or not, paid about half the cost in 2000. Government paid 9 percent of the cost. “Other” (13 percent) includes unpaid charges of health care providers and charities, costs borne by employers, and the cost of delay borne by travelers.


1. U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, The Economic Impact of Motor Vehicle Crashes 2000 (Washington, DC: 2002), also available at http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/people/economic, as of December 2002.

1 The costs detailed here are the economic costs not the intangible consequences of these events to individuals and families, such as pain and suffering and loss of life.

2 All dollar amounts are in current 2000 dollars.

Updated: Saturday, May 20, 2017