Study identifies social costs caused by prioritizing individual motorized transport

Cars and motorcycles represent more than 80% of the costs generated by accidents. Individual transportation modes also explain a large share of pedestrian accidents.
Public Policy
04 June 2024
Study identifies social costs caused by prioritizing individual motorized transport

Encouraging active modes of transportation is a key element in formulating more equitable and sustainable mobility policies. And according to the results of the “Shared Streets” project, carried out by FGV Cities, individual motorized modes of transportation don’t just emit a lot of pollution, but also have a significant cost in terms of accidents on city streets. 

According to data from 2013 to 2020, from the municipal government of Sao Paulo’s Geosampa agency, cars and motorbikes are responsible for more than 80% of accidents involving victims in the municipality of Sao Paulo. The FGV Cities study found that the average annual health cost associated with traffic accidents involving these two modes exceeds R$500 million.

“When we look at different transportation modes, we see that automobiles account for a very large proportion of both non-fatal accidents and fatal accidents. Cars and motorbikes have annual average costs of R$240 million and R$273 million, respectively,” explains Frederico Ramos, who was part of the research team. 

Cars and motorcycles represent more than 80% of the costs generated by accidents. Individual transportation modes also explain a large share of pedestrian accidents.

“When it comes to hit-and-run accidents, cars also have a very large weight, and buses too, as they usually cause serious accidents, leading to a relatively large weight, all linked to road safety design issues,” the researcher says.

Methodology

The study used a methodology created by the Institute for Applied Economic Research (IPEA) to calculate the social costs associated with traffic accidents, including hospitalizations and related costs (the salaries of public agents involved plus removal and rescue costs), the indirect impact on congestion, damage to urban equipment, harm to private property, lost output, social security costs and legal bills.

The researchers analyzed data made available by the Sao Paulo municipal government via Geosampa, collected between 2013 and 2020, separating out hit-and-run events and discriminating between fatal and non-fatal accidents. Hit-and-run data was analyzed separately for comparison purposes.

To measure the costs of each mode of transportation, investments were also estimated involving the adoption of policies to improve road geometry, signage and education for both drivers and pedestrians.

Spatialized data

The research methodology also enabled cases to be spatialized using georeferenced data. Accordingly, it was possible to identify the costs generated in each area of the city and their contribution to the total cost of claims.

“For example, the municipal government has proposed to carry out a traffic calming project in the São Miguel Paulista area. The cost of accidents in this area exceeds the total cost of the municipal government’s investment in traffic calming measures. This shows how much could be saved,” Frederico Ramos explains. 

According to the study, in the São Miguel Paulista region, there were 374 non-fatal accidents, 12 fatal accidents and 130 pedestrian accidents in the period in question, generating a total cost of more than R$22 million.

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