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The Dangers and Health Costs of Deficient Roadways

July 2, 2009

While considerable research has been conducted over the past 50 years
quantifying the significant roles motor vehicle design, drunk and
drugged driving, speeding and non-use of seatbelts play as factors in
the number, severity and economic costs of motor vehicle crashes in the
United States, this is the first national study in many years to examine
the role and consequences of another major factor in these tragic
incidences-the physical condition of U.S. roadways.  

The study finds that the cost and severity of crashes where roadway
conditions are a factor “greatly exceeds the cost and severity of
crashes where alcohol or speeding was involved, or the cost of non-use
of seatbelts.”
Among the study’s key findings:

Roadway condition is a contributing factor in more than half-52.7
percent-of the nearly 42,000 American deaths resulting from motor
vehicle crashes each year and 38 percent of the non-fatal injuries. In
terms of crash outcome severity, it is the single most lethal
contributing factor-greater than speeding, alcohol or non-use of seat

Motor vehicle crashes in which roadway condition is a contributing
factor cost the U.S. economy more than $217 billion each year. That is
more than three-and-one-half times the amount of money government at all
levels is investing annually in roadway capital improvements-$59
billion, according to the Federal Highway Administration.
This societal cost includes $20 billion in medical costs; $46 billion in
productivity costs; $52 billion in property damage and other resource
costs; and $99 billion in monetized quality of life costs.

American businesses are paying an estimated $22 billion of the annual
economic cost of motor vehicle crashes involving their employees in
which roadway condition is a contributing factor. This includes almost
$10 billion a year in health-related fringe benefit expenses for
insurance ($6.0 billion) workers’ compensation claims ($1.2 billion),
sick leave ($1.7 billion) and Social Security ($920 million). These
crashes cost government (taxpayers) at all levels $12.3 billion.

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