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Get in a car accident with the feds? It's probably their fault.

Monday - 4/28/2014, 1:40pm  ET

Hitching a ride from a federal employee? Consider catching a cab.

From fiscal 2008 through 2012, vehicles leased by the General Services Administration for use by federal agencies traveled about 9.7 billion miles and were involved in about 37,000 accidents, according to a report from the Government Accountability Office. More interesting still? The government was at fault in about 62 percent of those — or nearly 23,000 accidents. 

Of the total number of accidents that were the fault of federal drivers, the vast majority — 21,385 — were collisions with other vehicles. After that, federal drivers were most likely to strike stationary objects or run off the road. For those wondering, federal vehicles struck a total of 68 animals and 41 pedestrians in those four years.

If contractors are looking for a silver lining to this, here it is: The amount that companies billed to agencies for the cost of repairs during that same four-year period totaled $53.56 million, with the average cost per accident coming to about $2,300. Claims settled for an amount of $2,500 or less are paid by the agency, while claims topping $2,500 are paid from the Judgment Fund — a permanent, indefinite appropriation. Typically in those latter cases, agencies don't have to reimburse the fund. For really large claims, the Justice Department will sometimes get involved.

There's a silver lining for government as well. Annual costs related to vehicle damage decreased from about $12 million in fiscal 2008 to $8.6 million in fiscal 2012 (though GAO was unable to figure out why that is exactly). Also, the number of injuries and fatalities were relatively low, with 1,466 people hurt and 49 people killed in the accidents where a government driver was reported to be at fault.

It's worth noting that GSA-leased vehicles make up only about 29 percent of the entire federal fleet, which includes about 650,000 vehicles in all — 68 percent of which are trucks, 31 percent passenger vehicles and 1 percent ambulances and buses. But according to GAO, only data on GSA-leased vehicles was readily available.

© 2014 American City Business Journals, Inc.