For more than 130 years, cars have been one of society’s greatest inventions. However, the success and innovation of the automobile industry is buoyed by car-related accidents, which have a significant impact on the American economy in a number of ways. Fortunately, with today’s modern technology, a future of zero car accidents, or at least a drastically reduced amount, is a realistic and eventual goal.
The High Cost of Car Crashes
Across the country, millions of drivers are maneuvering two-ton machines as part of daily, regular life, which makes crashes and accidents inevitable. According to previous research by Cooney & Conway, 2016 was the deadliest year on American roads in nearly a decade, where 40,000 deaths and countless injuries have resulted from roadway accidents. In 2018, traffic-related deaths declined but still number over 36,000.
The heavily populated cities of the Northeast, with old roads and inclement weather, rank the highest for vehicle deaths per capita, with over 16k. More rural, sparsely populated areas, such as the South and West regions, claim only 4-8k of vehicle deaths.
While the human toll is immeasurably tragic, the economic cost is also staggering. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there is a $277 billion impact in economic costs and $594 billion in societal impact, including the suffering and loss of life resulting from car crashes. These numbers also represent everything else effected by car accidents—$76 billion in property damage; $57.6 billion in productivity losses for employment and household; $23.3 billion in medical care and on-going rehabilitation costs; $20.5 billion in insurance admin costs, and much, much more.
Reducing the Impact
From fender-benders to multi-car pile-ups, car accidents are partially preventable.
- One of the most common reasons for costly car crashes is speeding, which costs the nation $59 billion, or $191 per person in taxes.
- Drunk driving and distracted driving cost $46 and $49 billion for the country, between 17-18% of the total economic loss.
- Accidents involving pedestrians and bicyclists account for 7% of the total national economic loss, or $19 billion.
By improving the driving circumstances and following the rules of the road, perhaps a decrease in both the causes and effects could also improve the economic bottom line.
Hope for the Future
Fortunately, as the design and functionality of the modern automobile industry continues to progress, so do the safety and accident-protection innovations.
The federal government sees self-driving cars as a key part of a goal to get the nation to zero highway deaths in the next 30 years, and has fast-tracked the adoption of self-driving cars. Because self-driving cars propose to majorly decrease the human and economic toll of car crashes, an extensive adoption of self-driving cars could potentially eliminate 90% of all auto accidents in the U.S., save 300,000 lives per decade, prevent up to $190 billion in damages and health costs annually, and reduce auto insurance premiums by 40%. Self-driving cars offer a better world on the horizon.