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New Study: Over 50% Of Highway Deaths Due To Poor Road Conditions

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The Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation (PIRE) recently conducted a study on traffic accidents and fatalities, which reveals that over half of the deaths that occur on America's roadways can be blamed on poor road conditions. Moreover, the expense of those accidents--fatal or not--cost come at a cost of $217 billion, much of which is shouldered by U. S. taxpayers.

That $217 billion total breaks down as follows: "$20 billion in medical costs; $46 billion in productivity costs; $52 billion in property damage and other resource costs; and $99 billion in quality of life costs which measure the value of pain, suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life by those injured or killed in crashes and their families." By comparison, accidents due to alcohol come at a price of $130 billion, and the tab for speeding is around $97 billion.

The study argues that changing drivers' environment (i.e. roadways) is easier, more cost-effective, and more efficient than changing their behavior (e.g. encouraging them to wear seatbelts and avoid alcohol). The study recommends a number of improvements, including adding "rumble strips" to road shoulders, installing and upgrading guardrails, widening road shoulders, and clearing space alongside roadways to provide a bigger buffer between drivers and homes, business, trees, etc.

The study is great fodder for some lobbyists in D.C., who are asking congress to extend a federal law about transportation funding that expires this fall. In fact, it's especially useful for the group that funded the study--the other TCC: the Transportation Construction Coalition. You know, the people who build and improve roadways?

That's not to question the validity of the study--PIRE looks to be a thoroughly independent, reputable group of researchers. However, we feel obligated to raise an eyebrow with the funders of a study have significant gains to make from the study's results, as the TCC do now, since they are "calling on Congress to provide significant, dedicated funding for roadway safety improvements and to develop programs that encourage states to invest even more." Consider that full disclosure.

P.S. If you'd like a copy of PIRE study, it's a pretty manageable 36-page PDF, which you can download by clicking here. It should make great hammock reading over the long holiday weekend.

[TransportationConstructionCoalition via PRNewswire]

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Comments (2)
  1. The noted roadway improvements seem centered around drivers leaving the roadway. Is this a roadway issue, or a driver issue. If we can limit the number of drivers who drive off the roadway (driver education?) we wouldn't need to spend millions (billions) of dollars keeping these drivers from hitting objects off the roadway. I would question whether the problem is the roadway design or is driver caused.
     
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  2. Actually, if the PIRE study is correct, it demonstrates that the cost of accidents related to poor road quality FAR outweigh the cost of accidents due to driver faults. Their argument is that the most effective, cost-efficient means of reducing accidents (and fatalities) would be to invest more heavily in roadway improvements. Put another way, driver education is fine, but the most dramatic benefits will come from better roadways.
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    To their credit, altering the driving environment DOES seem like a simpler task than educating drivers. Not that that doesn't need to be done, but it's much more straightforward, right?
     
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