Approximation Framework of Embodied Energy of Safety: Insights and Analysis

Zijia Zhong, Lei Zhu, Stanley Young

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus Citations


Transportation safety, as a critical component of an efficient and reliable transportation system, has been extensively studied with respect to societal economic impacts by transportation agencies and policy officials. However, the embodied energy impact of safety, other than induced congestion, is lacking in studies. This research proposes an energy equivalence of safety (EES) framework to provide a holistic view of the long-term energy and fuel consequences of motor vehicle crashes, incorporating both induced congestion and impacts from lost human productivity resulting from injury and fatal accidents and the energy content resulting from all consequences and activities from a crash. The method utilizes a ratio of gross domestic product (GDP) to national energy consumed in a framework that bridges the gap between safety and energy, leveraging extensive studies of the economic impact of motor vehicle crashes. The energy costs per fatal, injury, and property-damage-only (PDO) crashes in gasoline gallon equivalent (GGE) in 2017 were found to be 200,259, 4442, and 439, respectively, which are significantly greater than impacts from induced congestion alone. The results from the motor vehicle crash data show a decreasing trend of EES per crash type from 2010 and 2017, due primarily in part to a decreasing ratio of total energy consumed to GDP over those years. In addition to the temporal analysis, we conducted a spatial analysis addressing national-, state-, and local-level EES comparisons by using the proposed framework, illustrating its applicability.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number4230
Number of pages21
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5400-77993


  • Embodied energy
  • Energy equivalence of safety
  • Energy productivity
  • Motor vehicle crash


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