Freak Accident

In a recent New York Times article (requires free registration), Freakonomics authors Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt analyze the costs of traffic. The punch line:

Driving costs in the US, per year:
  • Carbon footprint: $20 billion
  • Congestion: $78 billion
  • "Accidents" (crashes): $220 billion
By this analysis, if we all switched to true zero emissions vehicles and somehow eliminated congestion, we would cut the cost of traffic by about a third.

And even that wouldn't really work, because if there was no congestion, people would drive more and have more crashes. That's really the point of the article: America subsidizes driving, so people drive more than they would if they had to individually bear the cost of their driving. The result is that everybody pays.