Auto Accidents Cost U.S. Economy $100B Annually: CDC Study

According to a new government report, automobile accidents cost each licensed driver in America about $500 per year, with the estimated cost to the U.S. economy at nearly $100 billion. 

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) calculated the annual cost of medical care and productivity loss caused by traffic accidents in a new study published in the journal Traffic Injury Prevention.

The CDC used incidence and cost data from several sources to build a cost estimate of auto accidents in 2005, the most recent year with the most complete data available. Researchers found that the cost of fatal and non-fatal accidents for people riding in motor vehicles represented 71% of the overall cost, or about $70 billion. Injuries and deaths caused by motorcylce accidents cost the economy $12 billion, pedestrians cost $10 billion and accidents involving bicyclists cost $5 billion.

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The study found that fatalities and injuries to motorcyclists and pedestrians had costs out of proportion to the number of actual accidents, because in both cases the injuries were more severe since the victims were relatively unprotected. Motorcyclists only made up 6 percent of all fatalities and injuries, but took up 12% of the costs, while pedestrians, likewise, represented 5% of all injuries and auto accident deaths, but accounted for 10% of the costs.

Researchers also determined that teens and young adults from ages 15 to 24 made up 28% of the fatalities and injuries and 31% of the economic impact, although they only make up 14% of the population.

The CDC found that most of the accidents are preventable and released a list of recommendations and an auto accident fact sheet (PDF) for communities to help lower the number of auto accident injuries and fatalities. The recommendations included:

  • Graduated driver license policies that restricts teen drivers while allowing them valuable driving experience.
  • Increase child safety seat education and distribution.
  • Primary seat belt laws which would allow police to stop drivers for not wearing a seat belt, and enforcement programs aimed at increasing seat belt use.
  • Increased motorcycle and bicycle helmet laws.
  • Increased use of sobriety checkpoints.


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