Reduction In U.S. Alcohol-Related Crashes Has Sparked $36 Billion Economic Benefit

By McCarton Ackerman 05/11/15

Preventing alcohol-related crashes is a boon to the economy.

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It’s not just those on the road who benefit from drunk drivers not getting behind the wheel. A new study has found that a reduction in alcohol-related car crashes has created over 200,000 jobs and boosted the U.S. economy by billions of dollars.

The findings, published in the journal Injury Prevention, examined the benefits of fewer alcohol-related car crashes since 1984-86. Researchers found that this increased economic output in 2010 by around $20 billion, raised the U.S. gross domestic product by $10 billion and increased U.S. income by $6.5 billion. About 5% of the $200 million compounded average annual growth in the gross domestic product from 1985-2013 was due to fewer alcohol-related accidents.

This crash reduction also led to the creation of 215,000 jobs. Lead researcher Ted Miller explained to Reuters that employer savings from employees not having to take time off from work, combined with not needing to pay benefits for disability or their injured workers for time off, allowed for extra funds to expand job opportunities.

“Alcohol-involved crashes drag down the U.S. economy,” wrote the authors. “On average, each of the 25.5 billion miles Americans drove impaired in 2010 reduced economic output by $0.80. Those losses are preventable.” They suggested installing breath-controlled ignitions or crash avoidance systems to help further reduce alcohol-related vehicle crashes across the country.

Conversely, alcohol-related crashes reduced the overall GDP by $10 billion and cost the workforce 234,000 jobs. The healthcare industry was the only business sector that benefitted from the crashes due to an increased demand for medical services after these incidents.

The ongoing reduction in alcohol-related accidents has also remained a trend despite alcohol sales continuing to rise in recent years. With the worst of the recession behind us, U.S. shipments of spirits in 2011 increased 2.7% over the previous year and hit the 2.9% annual pre-recession increased average in 2012.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.

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