Economic Costs of Bicycle Crashes

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By Charles Pekow — Advocates have long argued that bicycling contributes to the economy. But it seems it’s also the case that when cycling goes wrong, it causes a big economic dent. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) undertook a study on the economic and social impact of traffic crashes during 2019. It calculated that cycling crashes caused approximately $5.6 billion in economic losses and about $32.2 billion in costs overall. The harm accounted for 1.7 percent of economic costs and 2.4 percent of all societal harm.

A cyclist just after being hit by a car driver. Photo by Dave Iltis

Totals include medical care, loss of work and household productivity, insurance administration, legal costs, and diminished quality-of-life. When bicycles and autos are involved, the damage includes costs of drivers swerving to miss a cyclist and getting hurt or causing property damage. “Bicyclist crashes resulted in 865 fatalities, 78,700 nonfatal injuries, and 8,400 (property damage only) damaged vehicles in 2019,” the paper says.

In many cases, the cyclists themselves were at fault, says The Economic and Societal Impact of Motor Vehicle Crashes, 2019 (Revised), (https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/ViewPublication/813403). The figures include all pedalcycles, including tricycles and unicycles, which counted for a very small share.

The report states that between 1982 and 2016, when cyclists and pedestrians were involved in crashes between eight and 10 percent of them were found with alcohol in their system. In about six percent of all traffic fatalities, the cyclist or pedestrian had been drinking, and most of the time they were legally inebriated.

 

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