Car Crashes Cost $41 Billion Per Year

Car crashes are not only deadly, they're expensive.

Motor vehicle crash-related deaths in the United States resulted in an estimated $41 billion in medical and work-loss costs in a year, according estimates released today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Half of this cost ($20.4 billion) was in 10 states, the report says.

The 10 states with the highest medical and work-loss costs: California ($4.16 billion), Texas ($3.50 billion), Florida ($3.16 billion), Georgia ($1.55 billion), Pennsylvania ($1.52 billion), North Carolina ($1.50 billion), New York ($1.33 billion), Illinois ($1.32 billion), Ohio ($1.23 billion), and Tennessee ($1.15 billion).

The analysis was based on 2005 figures, which is the most recent year for which comprehensive data on is available.

"Deaths from motor vehicle crashes are preventable," said CDC Director Dr. Thomas R. Frieden. "Seat belts, graduated driver's license programs, child safety seats, and helmet use save lives and reduce health care costs."

The report also found the cost related to crash deaths among children and teenagers from birth to 19 years old was nearly $856 million.

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for children and younger adults (ages 5 to 34) in the United States, the CDC says. More than 2.3 million adult drivers and passengers were treated in emergency departments as the result of being injured in car crashes in 2009.

"It's tragic to hear that anyone dies on our nation's roads. But it's especially so when the person who loses his or her life is a child or teenager," said Dr. Linda Degutis, director of the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. "Child passenger safety laws and comprehensive graduated driver licensing laws are proven to protect young lives. We encourage states to strengthen and enforce these laws to help keep more of our young people safe."

To prevent crash-related deaths and reduce medical and work loss costs, CDC's Injury Center recommends that states consider the following strategies:

  • Primary seat belt laws, which allow motorists to be stopped and cited for not wearing seat belts. Seat belts reduce the risk of death to those riding in the front seat by about half.
  • Strong child passenger safety policies, which require children to be placed in age- and size-appropriate child safety and booster seats while riding in vehicles.
  • Comprehensive graduated driver licensing (GDL) systems, which are proven to reduce teen crashes . GDL systems help new drivers gain experience under lower-risk conditions by granting driving privileges in stages. For instance, young drivers may not be able to drive past a certain time at night, or must have their license for a given period before being able to drive other young passengers.
  • Universal motorcycle helmet laws, which require riders of all ages to wear helmets . Helmet use can reduce the risk of death in a motorcycle crash by more than one-third and reduce the risk of brain injury by 69 percent.

Pass it on: Deaths from car crashes cost about $41 billion in medical and work-loss costs per year.

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Live Science Staff
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