4 Ways Road Crashes Impact the Economy

By each day's sunset, 3,700 people have died in car crashes

There’s no question that road crashes have a devastating impact on victims and their families. The World Health Organization states that road crashes kill 1.4 million people and injure 20 to 50 million people every year. Road crashes also bear a heavy economic cost. According to statistics from the our expert panel white paper “Investing in Road Safety: A Global Imperative for the Private Sector,” crashes come at a cost of USD $518 billion per year to the global economy. The White Paper outlines these eye-opening statistics on the cost of crashes.

1. It’s an international problem.

The cost of road crashes varies in different economies. According to the WHO, crashes amount to approximately 1 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP); in middle-income countries the cost is 1.5 percent of the GDP; and in high-income countries the cost is 2 percent of the GDP. Some studies even cite costs as high as 3 percent of the GDP (1, 2). Our white paper found that the cost of crashes in the developing world often exceeds the amount of payments that those countries receive in financial aid. It also points out that because of poor reporting and lack of a central data system, we don’t know as much as we’d like about the cost of crashes in many less developed countries.

2. The effects are pervasive.

In the United States, motor vehicle crashes cost USD $242 billion per year. That breaks down in the following ways:

  • 28 percent property damage;
  • 25 percent workplace productivity loss;
  • 8 percent household productivity loss;
  • 39 percent medical costs, traffic congestion, and other costs

3. On-the-job deaths leave a huge void at home and on the job.

In the U.S. alone, road crashes are the number one reason for on-the-job deaths. Annually, 2,100 people die and 353,000 are injured in crashes while working, according to the International Labor Organization. In the U.S., direct costs for a single traffic fatality are approximately USD$1.4 million, according to the NHTSA. A majority of those costs—87 percent—are connected to lost productivity at work and at home.

4. Employers pay a steep price.

Our white paper notes that each traffic death costs employers approximately USD $3.8 million (USD $500,000 in fringe and non-fringe benefits, and USD $3.3 million in wage-risk premiums) and non-fatal injuries cost approximately USD $128,000 (USD$ 76,000 in fringe and non-fringe benefits, and USD $52,000 in wage-risk premiums). Some industries, according to the report, face a larger economic burden when it comes to traffic injuries. Those include agriculture and forestry, land transportation, mining, heavy construction, and automotive sales and repair.

Road crashes have an impact that reverberates through every sector and every country. If businesses work together to help improve road safety, the benefits will spread throughout the economy, with the potential to help a company’s own bottom line.



  1. Peden, M., Scurfi, R., Sleet, D., Mohan, D., Hyden, A. A., and Jarawan, E. (2004). “World Report on Road Traffic Injury Prevention.” Geneva.
  2. United Nations Road Safety Collaboration. (2011). “Global Plan for the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020. Geneva.
  3. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. (2003). “The Economic Burden of Traffic Crashes on Employers: Costs by State and Industry and by Alcohol and Restraint Use.” Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. DOT HS 809 682.
  4. International Labor Organization. (2014). “International Labor Standards for Occupational Safety and Health.” Geneva.