What do car accidents really cost American society?

A single severe car accident can result in numerous costs. Both property damage to vehicles involved in the accident and to any affected outside objects or structures can costs thousands and thousands of dollars. In addition, local governments employ first responders to assist in such situations, court costs and attorneys fees related to the accident can be expensive and medical care tied to any given accident can be astronomical. These monetary totals do not even factor in the loss of income, loss of mobility, loss of life and trauma that can result from car accidents.

Americans like to measure damage in numbers. When earthquakes hit or hurricanes barrel through a community, the damage estimates reported on the news are given in dollar amounts. Although we cannot truly measure the cost of car accidents, because we cannot quantify true human loss and the impact of trauma, we can give monetary estimates of how much accidents cost American society in terms of those losses that can be quantified.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), during each year that passes motor vehicle accidents cost American society an estimated $871 billion in both societal harm and economic losses. The NHTSA arrived at this number by calculating that $277 billion in economic costs and losses result from crashes, while an estimated $594 billion results from the pain, suffering and loss of life which occur in the wake of crashes.

The second number is far more difficult to estimate with any accuracy as the cost of human life is truly priceless. Yet, the NHTSA's estimates give one a sense of just how costly motor vehicle crashes truly can be.

Source: Click on Detroit, "NHTSA: Car crashes have $871 billion impact on economy, society," May 29, 2014

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