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

July 2, 2009
Fender bender

Fender bender

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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