THURSDAY, April 30, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- A dramatic drop in the number of alcohol-related car accidents over the past three decades may have helped fuel the U.S. economy, a new study suggests.
"Alcohol-involved crashes drag down the U.S. economy," the study authors wrote of their research that focused on the year 2010.
In that year, just 12 percent of car crashes involved alcohol, the researchers found. That's half the rate it was in the mid-80s, they noted. Although this sharp decline didn't affect alcohol sales, it boosted the national economy by $20 billion, they said.
To estimate the impact on the economy from car accidents involving alcohol, the researchers calculated the gains and losses tied to the significant drop in these accidents since 1984. For example, they calculated costs to employers and consumers from alcohol-related crashes, including medical and legal expenses as well as lost productivity, property damage, emergency response and crash investigations.
The study suggested the dramatic decline in alcohol-related accidents led to a $6.5 billion increase in national income in 2010. The researchers also contended that the drop in alcohol-related crashes led to 215,000 new jobs.
The reduction in alcohol-related car accidents also raised U.S. gross domestic product -- or GDP (the monetary value of all finished goods and services produced in the country) -- by $10 billion, according to the researchers.
Every one of the 25.5 million miles driven by drunk drivers in 2010 cost the economy an average of 12 jobs, reduced the national economic output by 80 cents and cut the GDP by 40 cents, the researchers said.
Eliminating alcohol-related accidents would result in more economic gains, they added.
Proven strategies to cut down on alcohol-related crashes include laws and added safety features, according to the researchers. They added that collision warnings and mandatory ignition interlocks for those previously convicted of drunk driving are other measures that have helped prevent car accidents involving alcohol.
The study was published online April 29 in Injury Prevention.
Although the study showed a link between the drop in alcohol-related crashes and the economy, it didn't prove cause-and-effect.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on impaired driving.