Social costs of road crashes: An international analysis

Wijnen, W.; Stipdonk, H.

This paper provides an international overview of the most recent estimates of the social costs of road crashes: total costs, value per casualty and breakdown in cost components. The analysis is based on publications about the national costs of road crashes of 17 countries, of which ten high income countries (HICs) and seven low and middle income countries (LMICs). Costs are expressed as a proportion of the gross domestic product (GDP). Differences between countries are described and explained. These are partly a consequence of differences in the road safety level, but there are also methodological explanations. Countries may or may not correct for underreporting of road crashes, they may or may not use the internationally recommended willingness to pay (WTP)-method for estimating human costs, and there are methodological differences regarding the calculation of some other cost components.

The analysis shows that the social costs of road crashes in HICs range from 0.5% to 6.0% of the GDP with an average of 2.7%. Excluding countries that do not use a WTP- method for estimating human costs and countries that do not correct for underreporting, results in average costs of 3.3% of GDP. For LMICs that do correct for underreporting the share in GDP ranges from 1.1% to 2.9%. However, none of the LMICs included has performed a WTP study of the human costs.

A major part of the costs is related to injuries: an average share of 50% for both HICs and LMICs. The average share of fatalities in the costs is 23% and 30% respectively. Prevention of injuries is thus important to bring down the socio-economic burden of road crashes.

The paper shows that there are methodological differences between countries regarding cost components that are taken into account and regarding the methods used to estimate specific cost components. In order to be able to make sound comparisons of the costs of road crashes across countries, (further) harmonization of cost studies is recommended. This can be achieved by updating and improving international guidelines and applying them in future cost studies. The information regarding some cost components, particularly human costs and property damage, is poor and more research into these cost components is recommended.

Published in
Accident Analysis & Prevention

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