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How Philadelphians Lose $1 Billion Per Year in Traffic

costoftrafficWhen the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia and other advocacy groups talk about Vision Zero, the conversation is often about safety. Vision Zero is the policy to eliminate traffic deaths and serious injuries for all road users, and the Better Mobility Working Group’s Better Mobility 2015 platform calls on the city to set a goal of reducing traffic injuries and deaths by 50 percent by 2020.

But when you break down the numbers, Vision Zero policy is more than a moral imperative—it’s also really good for Philadelphia’s economic prospects.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that the economic costs of road crashes in 2010 were $871 billion nationwide. That number was derived from the NHTSA’s street death toll of 32,999 people, 3.9 million injured and 24 million damaged vehicles—totaling $594 billion in societal harm and $277 in economic costs.

And that’s just vehicular deaths and injuries. For bicyclists and pedestrians, crashes accounted for approximately $109 billion, which comes from $19 billion in economic costs and $90 billion in societal harm.

So, nearly $1 trillion per year in costs, nationwide.

Here in Pennsylvania, PennDOT calculates its own estimates, and it found that each road death in Pennsylvania costs about $6.35 million. Each major injury adds up to about $1.39 million in legal, healthcare, clean up and other associated costs. Altogether, the cost of road crashes in Pennsylvania in 2013 was $14 billion. What’s that mean for you? $1,099 in economic loss for every person in the Commonwealth.

Screenshot from PennDOT's 2013 Crash Facts and Statistics

Screenshot from PennDOT’s 2013 Crash Facts and Statistics

But wait there’s more. Based on PennDOT’s estimates, motor vehicle crashes in 2013 that led to the loss of 89 lives in Philadelphia cost $565 million, while the 11,549 injuries in the city limits cost $450 million. Here’s a chart to help you understand this.

cost of philly crashes

We’re not just pushing Vision Zero as part of the Better Mobility 2015 platform for our health (although, clearly, that’s part of it!). Investing in safer infrastructure would reduce fatalities and injuries and avoid a portion of these costs. There is not only a moral imperative, but also a financial incentive to increase the safety of our roadways. With that, make sure you RSVP to our Better Mobility 2015 mayoral forum, where all Philly’s mayoral candidates will be asked where they stand on mobility and traffic issues. See you on March 19.

Topics: Featured, research, Vision Zero

2 comments on “How Philadelphians Lose $1 Billion Per Year in Traffic

  1. Pam

    Perhaps we should add to the list the lack of accountability on the part of the driver when he/she drive wrecklessly. Whether you seriously hurt or kill someone, there is not much done to the driver even when they leave the scene and are found later.
    I am not talking about someone who is driving sober, driving the speed limit and it truly is an “accident.”

  2. William J Marston LEED AP

    Over my 3-1/2 decades or so of my gradually improved cycling behavior as a city commuter-shopper-errand runner, I have suffered 5 accidents/falls but only one caused by a motor vehicle.

    Two were roadway surface ‘holes’, one was thin oily rainwater on a turn, one was my own cell phone distraction as I was approaching dismount at a corner curbcut at **walking speed** (how embarrassing!! knocked the wind out of me entirely!).

    A passenger car did not like the way I rode into town & well off to the right side of a previously no-bike-lane-marked Chestnut St @ 38th, so AS HE APPROACHED PASSING ME the driver honked, gave me no time to do ANYTHING, and instantly in passing he struck my left handlebar with the passenger-side mirror, knocking me down, knocking me out. Loads of people around as I came back to consciousness, incl a HUP doctor and a City Police officer. I was on my back with my head under a parked car there. As we awaited an ambulance-rescue van the officer asked what happened, and I said “A car hit me.” A voice from nearby said “No I didn’t! He ran into my car!”

    After I was out of the hospital and surgery for a plate in my collarbone, I pursued getting my bike back from the great firefighter-rescuers at Philly Fire Dept Battalion 11, 43rd & Market. I learned after innumerable attempts including a personal visit to the 17th District police station that the officer filed NO REPORT!!! (I also pursued Penn police just in case, but they apparently had no involvement.) So my insurance covered my injuries, I fixed my bike, my injured pride is just mine to keep.

    I wonder how this biking ‘accident’ kind of occurrence appears in tabulations of public data?

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