The economic impact of motor vehicle crashes: The cost of restrained versus unrestrained occupants in South Carolina

Satinderjit S. Gill, James W Jakub, Mary C. Pease, Claude D. Woollen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

4 Scopus citations


The purpose of our study was to evaluate the difference in hospital charges between restrained and unrestrained motor vehicle occupants. We were also interested in identifying whether a relationship existed between restraint usage and insurance status. The data for this study were collected from two sources. The 1998 and 1999 Crash Outcome Data Evaluation System was used to compare the hospital charges and restraint usage for all motor vehicle crashes in the state of South Carolina. The patient's insurance status was also analyzed. The hospital charges and restraint usage were also compared from one of the state's Level I trauma centers for the year 1999. These data were prospectively collected and retrospectively reviewed. The average inpatient hospital charges for the state of South Carolina were approximately 25 per cent greater or $4500 more per admission for an unrestrained versus a restrained occupant. There also appears to be a relationship between payer status and restraint usage. Medicaid and self-pay patients were least likely to be using a restraining device at the time of a motor vehicle crash. The data from a Level I trauma center showed similar but more dramatic trends. Hospital charges for unrestrained occupants were 87 per cent higher than those for restrained occupants, which translates into a cost difference of $22,358 per hospital admission. This study highlights the significant economic impact of a simple preventative strategy. The cost savings for a single Level I trauma center translate into almost 9.4 million dollars for a single year. There also appears to be a relationship between usage of a restraining device and payer status.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)569-574
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican Surgeon
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2002
Externally publishedYes


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery

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