Calculating the cost of bad things sometimes seems more like hunch than science.
For example, how much do you suppose has been spent on tamper-proof packaging in the 22 years since seven people took Tylenol that had been laced with cyanide and died in the Chicago area?
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) put a price on something more deadly: the cost of carnage on the nation’s roadways. It says the total annual cost is $871 billion. That number includes $277 billion in economic costs and $594 billion in harm from the loss of life and the pain and decreased quality of life due to injuries.
NHTSA says several factors contribute to the price tag of roadway crashes based on the 32,999 fatalities, 3.9 million non-fatal injuries and 24 million damaged vehicles in 2010. Here are some of the findings, as enumerated in the report:
Drunken driving accounted for 18 percent of the total economic loss and cost $49 billion, an average cost of $158 for every person in the United States. More than 90 percent of these costs occurred in crashes involving a drunk driver with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or higher.
Crashes involving a vehicle traveling over the posted speed limit or too fast for conditions accounted for 21 percent of the loss and cost the nation $59 billion in 2010. Crashes involving a distracted driver accounted for 17 percent of the total economic loss and cost the nation $46 billion in 2010, an average cost of $148 for every person in the United States.
Crashes involving pedestrians and bicyclists accounted for 7 percent of the loss and cost $19 billion. Preventable fatalities and injuries to people not wearing seat belts accounted for 5 percent of the loss and cost $14 billion.