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How Much Do Car Crashes Cost Us All?

Oakland Auto Collision Center Examines Cost to Society

Auto Collision Center East BayAt Shattuck Auto Collision Center, we see damaged vehicles every day. Some of these vehicles have been in fender-benders, others have substantial collision damage, and the portion that can’t be saved with auto body work are totaled and depart from us their way to the scrap yard. We know a bit about the cost of collisions, but we are involved in just one aspect of those costs. A 2014 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) study, in 300 pages, crunches and examines all kinds of statistics from the year 2010 to reveal the total cost of all aspects of damage from collisions. The Economic and Societal Impact of Motor Vehicle Crashes, 2010 begins with the sobering statement that 32,999 people died from crashes in that year. It goes on from there to provide many important observations that should give us all renewed interest in keeping driving conditions as safe as possible.

Economic Costs and Societal Costs

NHTSA puts the purely economic costs of vehicular crashes at $277 billion for the year 2010 alone. These costs include expenses related to the following:

  • Property damage (including auto body repair): $76 billion
  • Lost market and household productivity: $93 billion
  • Medical care: $35 billion
  • Congestion, including traffic delays, pollution, and excess fuel use: $28 billion

Other factors were workplace losses, legal and court actions, emergency services, and insurance administration costs.

To give an idea of the scale of these costs, it’s worth noting that the 2010 budget for the U.S. Department of Transportation was $72.5 billion. To equal the purely economic costs of traffic collisions, you would have to combine the federal budgets for the Departments of Transportation, Agriculture, Education, Veterans’ Affairs, and Health and Human Services. But then the NHTSA goes a step farther in its assessment of what traffic accidents cost the country. Calculating the “total value of societal harm from motor vehicle crashes when quality of life valuations are considered,” the report gives a figure of $871 billion.

Where the Money Comes From

Crash victims end up shouldering about a quarter of these costs themselves. This clearly has a devastating effect on those directly involved in collisions, completely apart from the physical and emotional trauma of the event. The remaining 75 percent of collision costs are paid by the population at large. Nine percent of the total amount comes out of federal, state, and local taxes. Some comes out of the pockets of other affected parties, including motorists caught up in traffic delays. Most, however, ends up coming from insurance premiums spread all across the public. In all, the $277 billion comes to $897 per capita for every resident of the United States.

A Piece of Good News

One aspect of the NHTSA study is reassuring. Of the nearly 24 million vehicles damaged in crashes in 2010, more than three-quarters had nothing to do with injuries to people. The study notes, “18.5 million or 77 percent of these vehicles were damaged in incidents that incurred property damage only.” When you run an auto collision center, you come to appreciate that if you can’t fix a car, you can replace it. “No one was hurt” is the first thing people hope to hear about a collision.

Get Repairs from the Best East Bay Auto Body Shop

If you’re in need of collision repair service, contact the team at Shattuck Auto Collision Center today at 510-848-6281.


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