Key, simple roadway improvements have the potential to save 63,700 lives and prevent more than 350,000 serious injuries over a 20-year period, according to a new report from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. With the U.S. ranked nearly last among high-income nations in annual traffic fatalities, which are on the rise, the Automobile Club of Southern California is urging state and local agencies to use funding from the recently approved state gas tax and vehicle registration fee hikes wisely so that needed safety improvements are achieved as roads and highways are repaired.
“We can save tens of thousands of lives and make our roadways safer by investing in low-cost improvements that we already know exist,” said Dr. David Yang, AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety executive director. “Now is the time to act by targeting limited resources where they will have the greatest impact.”
With an investment of $146 billion nationwide over 20 years, the report recommends six cost-effective roadway improvements with the greatest potential to reduce both the likelihood and consequences of crashes: (the below improvements account for 95 percent of anticipated crash reductions):
- Convert key intersections into roundabouts (nearly 30 percent)
- Install roadside barriers and clear roadside objects (nearly 20 percent)
- Add sidewalks and signalized pedestrian crossing on majority of roads (nearly 20 percent)
- Install median barriers on divided highways (14 percent)
- Install shoulder and centerline rumble strips (nearly 9 percent)
- Pave and widen shoulders (nearly 3 percent)
“We urge our state and local leaders to pay serious attention to these safety recommendations and incorporate them where possible when repairing and improving their streets and highways,” said Kathy Sieck, the Auto Club’s senior vice president for public affairs.
Sieck cited the recent Interstate 710 reconstruction project, which added new concrete median barriers, and the Riverside Drive bridge replacement in Los Angeles, which included the city’s first roundabout, as examples of recent local road projects that improved safety as well as traffic flow when they were completed.
“We must invest in infrastructure improvements that not only account for today’s needs, but also prioritize needs for the future, including the potentially lifesaving technology of autonomous vehicles,” said AAA President and CEO Marshall L. Doney.
AAA recommends state and local governments take action to:
- Prioritize safer highway design, improve road conditions and eliminate roadside hazards;
- Align highway and street improvements with priority needs; and
- Fund effective, ongoing clean-up of roadway debris.
“Highway infrastructure investments play a prominent role in our national strategy to decrease traffic fatalities and serious injuries,” said Doney. “Paired with other transportation improvements and safety programs - including technology advancements, stronger traffic laws, increased enforcement, effective public education and better emergency medical services – these investments will move the U.S. closer to our goal of zero deaths on the roadways.”
For the study, the potential safety benefits and costs of investments in highway infrastructure improvements were derived by projecting benefits and costs of highway infrastructure improvements estimated in previous studies onto all roads of the same types nationwide.
About AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety: Established in 1947 by AAA, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety is a not-for-profit, publicly funded, 501(c)(3) charitable research and educational organization. The AAA Foundation’s mission is to prevent traffic deaths and injuries by conducting research into their causes and by educating the public about strategies to prevent crashes and reduce injuries when they do occur. This research is used to develop educational materials for drivers, pedestrians, bicyclists and other road users. Visit www.AAAFoundation.org .
About AAA: As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 57 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. Motorists can map a route, identify gas prices, find discounts, book a hotel and access AAA roadside assistance with the AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android. Learn more at AAA.com/mobile. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at AAA.com.