According to a new report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, vehicle accidents cost the U.S. nearly $1 trillion every year. Between the economic loss and the societal harm such incidents amount to the staggering sum of $871 billion,or $897 per U.S. capita yearly, a figure that includes the many costs connected with accidents, such repair bills, hospital fees, legal expenses, productivity losses, amongst other costs.
“This includes $277 billion in economic costs – nearly $900 for each person living in the United States based on calendar year 2010 data — and $594 billion in harm from the loss of life and the pain and decreased quality of life due to injuries,” said the NHTSA’s statement.
According to the report, which is based off of data from 2010, the key, contributing factors leading to such a high amount of accidents were distraction, drunk driving, and speeding. The last of which accounted for 21% of the reported financial losses.
“Automobile accidents not only cost the injured financially, but it also adversely impacts their quality of life. One challenge a trial lawyer has when in front of a jury is to help them recognize and understand the effect an automobile accident has on a person’s daily life,” says Robert Stone of Robert Stone Law Office. “There often times exists pain and a decreased quality of life due to injuries sustained in an accident. The report does a good job at placing a value associated with what we call non-economic damages – damages that are not as easily identifiable.”
Though the statistic is shockingly high, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise considering that auto injury lawsuits, a field of law that specializes in earning accident victims monetary settlements in recompense for their injuries, make up more than half (52%) of personal injury lawsuits within the United States. If anything, the study’s findings are lower than what might actually be the case, since the NHTSA estimates that 10 million accidents on average go unreported each year in the United States.
The study came to a couple conclusions. Firstly, it found that seat belts were able to prevent 308,000 serious injuries, and 12,500 fatalities, a feat that saved approximately $69 billion in the various costs related to auto accidents. Conversely, the failure to wear seat belts cost the economy $72 billion.
Secondly, it’s never been safer to drive a vehicle. With 32,367 fatal accidents, the year 2011 had the lowest rate of fatal accidents since 1949. What’s interesting to note is that the fatality rate per vehicle miles traveled dropped in 2011 to 1.1 fatality per 100 million vehicle miles traveled from 2010’s 1.11 deaths, which is seven times lower than 1949’s rate.
David Friedman, acting administrator of the NHTSA said, “This new report underscores the importance of our safety mission and why our efforts and those of our partners to tackle these important behavioral issues and make vehicles safer are essential to our quality of life and our economy.”