More than half of U.S. highway fatalities are related to deficient roadway conditions – a substantially more lethal factor than drunk driving, speeding or non-use of safety belts – according to a landmark study released. Ten roadway-related crashes occur every minute (5.3 million a year) and also contribute to 38 percent of non-fatal injuries, the report found.
In revealing that deficiencies in the roadway environment contributed to more than 22,000 fatalities and cost the nation more than $217 billion annually, the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation (PIRE) concluded that making the roadway environment more protective and forgiving is essential to reducing highway fatalities and costs.
“If we put as much focus on improving road safety conditions as we do in urging people not to drink and drive, we’d save thousands of lives and billions of dollars every year,” principal study author Dr. Ted Miller said.
Titled “On a Crash Course: The Dangers and Health Costs of Deficient Roadways,” the study found the $217 billion cost of deficient roadway conditions dwarfs the costs of other safety factors, including: $130 billion for alcohol, $97 billion for speeding, or $60 billion for failing to wear a safety belt.
Indeed, the $217 billion figure is more than three-and-one-half times the amount of money government at all levels is investing annually in roadway capital improvements – $59 billion, according to the Federal Highway Administration.
The report also found that crashes linked to road conditions cost American businesses an estimated $22 billion at a time when many firms are struggling. According to the report, crashes linked to road conditions cost taxpayers over $12 billion every year.
“Recent concerns about swine flu pale in comparison to the number of crash victims I treat,” said Dr. Jared Goldberg, an emergency room physician in Alexandria, VA. “In medical terms, highway fatalities and injuries have reached epidemic proportions, and efforts to prevent further spread of this plague are essential. In the absence of a true vaccine to defend ourselves, fixing dangerous roads would help prevent traffic crashes from occurring in the first place.”
On a Crash Course identifies ways transportation officials can improve road conditions to save lives and reduce injuries. Immediate solutions for problem spots include: replacing non-forgiving poles with breakaway poles, using brighter and more durable pavement markings, adding rumble strips to shoulders, mounting more guardrails or safety barriers, and installing better signs with easier-to-read legends.
The report also suggested more significant road improvements, including: adding or widening shoulders, improving roadway alignment, replacing or widening narrow bridges, reducing pavement edges and abrupt drop offs, and clearing more space adjacent to roadways.
The report also analyzed crash costs on a state-by-state basis. The 10 states with the:
– Highest total cost from crashes involving deficient road conditions
Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois,
New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Texas.
– Highest road-related crash costs per million vehicle miles of travel
Alabama, Arkansas, Hawaii, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana,
Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia.
– Highest road-related crash costs per mile of road are:
California, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Maryland,
Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and South Carolina.