A new study looking at drunk driving’s effect on the economy and was published in Injury Prevention, indicates that the significant reduction in alcohol-related car accidents during the past few decades has benefited the U.S. economy.
In fact, the researchers report approximately 5% of the $200 million of compounded annual growth experienced by the U.S. gross domestic product since 1984 to 1986, can be attributed directly to fewer alcohol-related car accidents.
Ted Miller, of the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation in Silver Spring, Maryland and lead author of the study, asserts that the United States economy will continue to witness economic gains as we continue to reduce the number of alcohol-related car crashes. He believes that increasing the installation of crash avoidance systems and breath-controlled ignition interlock devices will reap even greater rewards.
In their findings, the researchers report that cost analyses of alcohol-related car accidents performed previously, did not accurately reflect the effects to the economy. Instead, these estimates were made from the perspective of employers and society. The authors believe analyzing those costs alone may not portray the entirety of the financial impact on our economy.
One concern the researchers had was that costs associated with an alcohol-related auto accident might actually benefit the U.S. economy because money would be spent on doctors and medical care in country rather than that same accident victim using disposable income to purchase an imported item that would benefit another country’s economy. This scenario, however, turned out to be false.
The investigators determined that of all people involved in car crashes reported in 2010, approximately 12 percent were alcohol-related crashes. That number is reduced by half from 1984 to 1986.
The researchers found that in 2010, Americans drove 25.5 billion miles with blood alcohol levels in excess of 0.05. Blood alcohol levels exceeded the legal limit of 0.08 for nearly 14 billion of those miles. Study authors estimate each one of those miles reduced U.S. economic output by $0.80. Additionally, they discovered alcohol-related crashes decreased the U.S. GDP by $10 billion and cost Americans 234,000 jobs. In fact, healthcare was the only business sector that profited from alcohol-related car accidents due to the increase in demand for medical services.
When employees are not injured in drunk driving accidents, they able to work and spend their money on other goods and services. Additionally, employers are not obligated to pay for disability benefits, paid time off, or substitute employees.
The researchers warn that their findings do not allow for the cost of prevention efforts or premiums paid for workers to take high-risk positions.
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