WASHINGTON - In a one-year period, the cost of medical care and productivity losses associated with injuries from motor vehicle crashes exceeded $99 billion -- with the cost of direct medical care accounting for $17 billion, according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The total annual cost amounts to nearly $500 for each licensed driver in the United States, according to a summary of the study published in the journal Traffic Injury Prevention.
The one-year costs of fatal and non-fatal crash-related injuries totaled $70 billion (71 percent of total costs) for people riding in motor vehicles, such as cars and light trucks, $12 billion for motorcyclists, $10 billion for pedestrians, and $5 billion for bicyclists, the study said.
CDC researchers used 2005 data because, at the study time, it provided the most current source of national fatal and non-fatal injury and cost data from multiple sources.
"Every 10 seconds, someone in the United States is treated in an emergency department for crash-related injuries, and nearly 40,000 people die from these injuries each year. This study highlights the magnitude of the problem of crash-related injuries from a cost perspective, and the numbers are staggering," said Dr. Grant Baldwin, director of CDC's division of unintentional injury prevention in the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.
The study also found:
- Costs related to fatal motor vehicle-related injuries totaled $58 billion. The cost of non-fatal injuries resulting in hospitalization amounted to $28 billion, and the cost of injuries to people treated in emergency departments and released was $14 billion.
- More men were killed (70 percent) and injured (52 percent) in motor vehicle crashes than women. Injuries and deaths among men represented 74 percent ($74 billion) of all costs.
- Teens and young adults made up 28 percent of all fatal and non-fatal motor vehicle injuries and 31 percent of the costs ($31 billion). These young people represented only 14 percent of the U.S. population.
- Motorcyclists made up 6 percent of all fatalities and injuries but 12 percent of the costs, likely due to the severity of their injuries. Pedestrians, who have no protection when they are hit by vehicles and are also often severely injured, made up 5 percent of all injuries but 10 percent of total costs.
Motor vehicle crash injuries and deaths and the associated costs are preventable. CDC's Injury Center supports the following strategies for prevention:
- Graduated driver licensing (GDL) policies -- These laws allow new teen drivers to get experience on the road in lower-risk situations as they gain experience over time. This approach reduces teen crashes. Strong GDL laws have been associated with up to 40 percent decreases in crashes among 16-year-old drivers.
- Child safety seat distribution and education programs -- Increased use of correctly installed and fitted child safety seats could help reduce the $3.6 billion annual bill for injuries to children, the cost number found in this study.
- Primary seat belt laws -- These laws 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.
- Enhanced seat belt enforcement programs -- Enhanced enforcement programs in which law enforcement officers focus on getting people to buckle up (e.g.: Click It or Ticket) are effective at increasing safety belt use and reducing deaths and injuries.
- Motorcycle and bicycle helmet laws -- Helmets 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.
- Sobriety checkpoints -- These checkpoints, where drivers are stopped to assess their level of alcohol impairment, can reduce alcohol-related crash deaths by more than 20 percent.