Motor vehicle accidents on U.S. highways cost the country $231 billion each year, according to a study released in May by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The report, based on year 2000 data, estimates that each death on U.S. roads costs $977,000 on average, and the treatment of a critically injured crash survivor costs $1.1 million.
Overall, almost 75 percent of the expense of road accidents is paid by those not directly involved – mostly through insurance premiums, taxes and travel delay. In 2000 these costs totaled $170 billion.
About 9 percent of costs from motor vehicle crashes are paid from public revenues. Federal revenues account for 6 percent, while states and localities pay about 3 percent. Private insurers pay about 50 percent. Individual crash victims pay about 26 percent. Third parties, such as charities, health care providers and uninvolved motorists delayed in traffic, pay about 14 percent.
The study also emphasized the importance of seat belts. In one year, seat belt use prevents an estimated 11,900 deaths and 325,000 serious injuries, saving $50 billion in medical care, lost productivity and related costs. On the other hand, the study says failure to use seat belts leads to an estimated 9,200 deaths and 143,000 injuries, costing society $26 billion.
“This new report offers further proof of the enormous toll America faces each year due to death and injury on our roadways,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta. “It underscores the compelling need for all of us – individuals as well as government – to strengthen our commitment to highway safety.”