Societal harm is tough to judge, but in this newest study by the NHTSA that number was put at $594 billion, with the economic costs of the 32,999 deaths, 3.9 million injuries, and 24 million damaged vehicles placed at $277 billion.

Highway Crashes

Avoidable deaths

Given the prevalence of smartphones, GPS systems, DVD players and other distractions, highway crashes are on the rise despite new laws that try to cut down on distracted driving.

“We want Americans to live long and productive lives, but vehicle crashes all too often make that impossible,” NHTSA Acting Administrator David Friedman, said in a statement. “This new report underscores the importance of our safety mission and why our efforts and those of our partners to tackle these important behavioral issues and make vehicles safer are essential to our quality of life and our economy.”

The study shows that three easily remedied factors play a large part in crashes and the consequent costs. Those factors are speeding, distracted driving, and driving under the influence of alcohol and other drugs. Between the three, the NHTSA estimates that they represent 56% and 62% of the economic loss and societal harm to the nation respectively.

The break down

Speeding alone accounted for 21% of the total economic loss or $59 billion and 24% of the societal harm which comes in at $210 billion. DUIs despite heightened enforcement and the lowering of accepted levels of alcohol in many states, still constitute 18% of the economic loss or $49 billion as well as 23% of the societal harm or $199 billion. Distracted driving was third with and economic loss of $46 billion or 17% while this manner of driving was responsible for $129 billion of the societal harm or $129 billion.

Somewhat surprising in this day and age was the fact that many people continue to drive and ride in cars as passengers without seat belts. Something that at the end of the day, is simple unacceptable given the amount of speeding, drunk, and distracted drivers that ply the nation’s roads each day.