May 10, 2002

Car crashes cost U.S. $230.6 billion a year

A new research study, conducted by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), estimates that the Economic Impact of Motor Vehicle Crashes in the U.S. has reached $230.6 billion a year, or an average of $820 for every person living in the United States.

The new report, based on calendar year 2000 data, calculates the U.S. economic costs of an average roadway fatality at $977,000 and estimates the economic costs associated with a critically injured crash survivor at $1.1 million.

“This new report offers further proof of the enormous toll America faces each year due to death and injury on our roadways. It underscores the compelling need for all of us – individuals as well as government – to strengthen our commitment to highway safety,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta.

The NHTSA study highlights the vital importance of seat belt use. In one year, the use of seat belts prevents an estimated 11,900 fatalities and 325,000 serious injuries, saving $50 billion in medical care, lost productivity and other injury related costs. Conversely, the failure of crash victims to wear seat belts leads to an estimated 9,200 unnecessary fatalities and 143,000 needless injuries, costing society $26 billion.

The report underscores the huge economic costs associated with alcohol-involved crashes, which resulted in an estimated 16,792 fatalities in 2000, as well as 513,000 nonfatal injuries, and $50.9 billion in economic costs. Such crashes account for 22 percent of all crash costs.

Costs for crashes involving a driver or non-occupant with a blood alcohol content of .10 percent or greater accounted for 75 percent of the total of all alcohol-involved crash costs. The impact of alcohol involvement increases with injury severity. Crashes linked to alcohol accounted for 46 percent of fatal injury crash costs; 21 percent of nonfatal crash costs; and 10 percent of the costs in crashes involving property damage only.

The study determined that excessive driving speed is associated annually with 12,350 fatalities and 690,000 non-fatal injuries. This represents 30 percent of all fatalities and 13 percent of all nonfatal injuries. Crashes in which at least one driver was exceeding the legal speed limit or driving too fast for conditions cost $40.4 billion in 2000, or $144 for every person living in the U.S.

NHTSA’s new study, titled “The Economic Impact of Motor Vehicle Crashes 2000,” also estimates the yearly economic cost of roadway crashes to include:

  • $61 billion in lost workplace productivity

  • $20.2 billion in lost household productivity
  • $59 billion in property damage
  • $32.6 billion in medical costs
  • $25.6 billion in travel delay costs


All told, the cost of motor vehicle crashes in the U.S. has reached 2.3 percent of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

In the year 2000, which the NHTSA research used as a basis for determining the annual economic impact of motor vehicle crashes, 41,821 persons were killed; 5.3 million were injured, and 27.6 million vehicles were damaged.

The new study is available on NHTSA’s website at:

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