This is a conservative estimate. When the researchers included changes in long-term quality of life from accident-related injuries, the total surged to $1.37 trillion.
36,500 dead, 4.5 million injured
The data comes from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) report on the economic and social impact of motor vehicle crashes in 2019.
It totaled the “present value of the lifetime economic cost of 36,500 deaths, 4.5 million nonfatal injuries, and 23 million damaged vehicles” for that year.
Each death equated to $1.6 million in damages, mostly in lost productivity and legal fees, the agency said. Losses totaled $979,000 per critically injured survivor.
Taxpayer cost, insurance cost
The public bears most of the costs. “Public revenues pay for approximately 9 percent of all motor vehicle accident costs,” the report states. That cost taxpayers $30 billion—the equivalent of $230 in extra taxes for every American family.
Rising accident costs can also trigger a surge in insurance costs.
Security innovation brings some progress
While these numbers are staggering, they also bring some good news. The total is down from 2010, the last time the agency conducted the study. and other advanced collision avoidance systems,” the study authors wrote.
But some of these advances may be short-lived. Regulators have reported a spike in road deaths since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
It’s too early to understand the impact of the pandemic
The agency said it was too early to tell how the trends of the pandemic would affect traffic safety in the long run. The social changes triggered by the crisis are “complex, with economic shutdowns leading to less travel, but less traffic congestion leading to speeding.”
In the long run, however, normalizing teleworking may reduce overall traffic fatalities and associated costs.