In 2010, motor vehicle accidents across the United States resulted in 33,000 fatalities, 3.9 million injuries, and 24 million damaged vehicles.
The total price tag for these accidents? $871 billion, according to a study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The total includes $277 billion in economic costs for property damage, lost productivity, medical expenses and more. This works out to $900 for every U.S. resident and represents nearly 2% of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product.
The additional $594 billion represents the total value of societal harm from car accidents, including quality of life valuations for loss of life and pain and suffering caused by injuries.
But here’s what’s worse. Up to 70% of costs could have been saved if drivers focused on safety when behind the wheel. The NHTSA says the following behavioural factors contributed to the $871 billion total:
- Drinking & driving $199 billion, or 23%.
- Speeding $210 billion, or 24%.
- Distracted driving $129 billion, or 15%.
- Lack of seat belt use causing death or injury $72 billion, or 8%.
"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 frequency and severity of these tragic events," said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.
In 2010, more than 3,350 people were killed and 54,300 were seriously injured across the U.S. because they failed to wear their seat belts. All preventable tragedies.
"Seat belt non-use represents an enormous lost opportunity for injury prevention," the report said.
NHTSA administrator David Friedman says the report underscores the importance of the safety agency's effort to improve auto safety and reduce accidents through programs that discourage unsafe behaviour like drunk driving, distracted driving, and not wearing seat belts.