Study shows the shocking cost of car accidents

A recent report by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration shows the staggeringly high cost of car accidents in the United States: $871 billion in the space of just one year. During the year in question, 2010, traffic accidents caused 3.9 million injuries and 32,999 deaths nationwide, as well as damage to 24 million vehicles. 

For the study, NHTSA researchers broke down the total cost of traffic accidents into economic losses and societal harm. Economic losses caused by vehicle crashes that year totaled $277 billion. To put that price tag in perspective, it is the equivalent of about $900 for every living person in the United States. Meanwhile, societal harms such as decreased quality of life or loss of life were pegged at an additional $594 billion nationwide.

To determine the cost of car accidents, the NHTSA considered several factors, such as lost income and productivity, medical and rehabilitative expenses, and loss of household services. When someone is hurt in a traffic accident, they can often recover compensation for these and other damages by pursuing a personal injury claim against the party responsible for causing the crash.

A majority of the losses analyzed in the study were caused by just three risky driving behaviors: distracted driving, drunk driving and speeding. Together, these behaviors were responsible for more than half of the crash-related economic losses in the U.S. in 2010, as well as nearly two-thirds of the crash-related societal harm.

Officials say the findings in the study underscore the importance of safety initiatives that target unsafe driving practices such as speeding, drunk driving and texting while driving. California, like a many other states, has placed strict limits on the use of handheld cellphones by drivers in an effort to reduce distracted driving accidents. Despite these laws, however, the problem remains widespread, and cellphone-related distractions continue to cause numerous preventable accidents, injuries and deaths every day.

Source: USA Today, "Staggering toll: Car crashes cost $871 billion a year," Larry Copeland, May 29, 2014

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