When we think of the costs of car accidents, most of us think of the price of hospital bills and vehicle repairs or replacements to the individuals who were involved in the crash.
We may also consider the cost of going to court and paying damages. What most of us haven’t considered, however, is the cost of these accidents to society, and, specifically, to taxpayers.
So how much, exactly, do car accidents cost taxpayers each year? To get a better idea, let’s look at some statistics.
The Cost of Vehicle Accidents
According to one study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, vehicle accidents cost approximately $871 billion annually, which is roughly $900 for each person in the United States. Many accident-related costs end up being footed by taxpayers. This can include:
- The cost of medical care. In 2017, the cost of medical care related to accidents exceeded $75 billion. If the accident victim is on Medicaid, Medi-Cal, or they simply can’t afford to pay their hospital bills, that cost is passed off onto you.
- When an accident is caused by criminal negligence, such as drunk driving, driving under the influence, or road rage, if the defendant can’t afford a criminal defense lawyer, a public defender will be appointed to them. Who pays for that? Also you.
- In many accidents, public property is damaged or destroyed. This can include anything from guard rails to buildings to government-owned vehicles. The cost to repair or replace this property also comes out of our taxes.
- According to the Office of Personnel Management, there are nearly three-million civil servants in the United States. If one of them is injured in an accident, they won’t be covered by worker’s compensation insurance.
Instead, they’ll be covered through the Federal Employees Compensation Act (FECA), which is taxpayer-funded.
- There are hundreds of thousands of railroad workers, harbor workers, coal miners, and longshoremen in the United States. If they are in a vehicle accident, it will also be covered by FECA.
- Like other vehicles, emergency vehicles are also involved in accidents. They may be especially prone to accidents because their duties often involve speeding and weaving through traffic, and not everyone pulls over when they hear sirens. These accidents cost taxpayers $35 billion each year.
- When someone is seriously injured in a car accident and they’re left disabled, they will receive Social Security disability benefits, possibly even for the rest of their lives. Spouses and children of those who are killed in accidents can also receive these benefits.
If they depended on the deceased or disabled person’s income, they may also end up relying on taxpayer-funded services for food, housing, and medical care.
The cost of vehicle accidents to taxpayers may be higher and more far-reaching than you realized, but keep in mind that if you’re hurt many of these benefits could also be extended to you and your loved ones. The solution to this problem is not to stop using taxpayer money on accident-related costs; it’s to reduce the number of vehicle accidents.
Taxpayer Investments in Safety
Investing our tax dollars in safety programs and regulations can reduce the number of accidents and save money. The taxes that were going toward accidents could then be used instead to fund other programs that benefit us.
One way this could be done is to put new safety regulations on corporations. Many accidents are caused by manufacturer defects like faulty tires and airbags.
Accidents can also be caused by problems with the roads. All of these things can be improved. You can click here to learn more about how the law relates to negligence, manufacturer liability, road design, and more.
The Department of Motor Vehicles, which we also pay for, could require more driver training and, specifically, defensive driving training. There could also be stiffer penalties for texting while driving and driving while drunk or under the influence of drugs, which are the cause of many accidents.
Taking a proactive approach to accident prevention could save taxpayers billions. It could also save more than one million lives every year and prevent many more injuries.
There are plenty of reasons people argue about how our tax dollars should be spent, but this is one use of our money that most of us would probably get behind.