Background Preventing traffic crashes reduces crash costs paid by employers and employees. The related savings filter through the economy, impacting its performance. This study is the first to measure the impact of traffic crash reduction on a national economy. It focuses on impaired driving crashes.
Methods We analysed the impact of the almost 50% alcohol-involved driving crash rate reduction from 1984–1986 to 2010 and the impact if such crashes in 2010 had not occurred. The analysis entered published estimates of costs that employers, consumers and governments paid because of US impaired-driving crashes as production costs and demand changes in Rutgers University's input–output model of the US economy. For example, reducing medical costs paid by employers lowers the cost of labour inputs to production while reducing vehicle repairs raises demand for other goods. Running the model at current and alternative crash rates revealed the impacts of crash reductions on economic output, gross domestic product (GDP), national income and employment.
Results Alcohol-involved crash reductions since 1984–1986 increased economic output in 2010 by an estimated $20 billion, raised GDP by $10 billion, increased US income by $6.5 billion, and created 215 000 jobs. GDP gains from alcohol-involved crash reduction contributed 5% of the $200 million compounded average annual growth in US GDP from 1985 to 2013. Eliminating remaining alcohol-involved crashes would result in similar economic gains.
Conclusions Alcohol-involved crashes drag down the US economy. On average, each of the 25.5 billion miles Americans drove impaired in 2010 reduced economic output by $0.80. Those losses are preventable.
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