Safety Benefits of Highway Infrastructure Investments
The purpose of this study was to estimate the reduction in serious injuries and deaths that could potentially be achieved through investment in highway infrastructure safety measures and to estimate the level of investment required to achieve those benefits.
The United States faces a major challenge in improving the traffic safety performance of our road and
street network. An evaluation of historical traffic crash data shows that while substantial improvements in
roadway safety have been made in the United States, especially within the last decade, the most recent
data show a reversal in this trend with substantial increases in fatalities in both 2015 and 2016 from the
previous several years. A review of recent data found that:
- Among developed nations, the United States ranks nearly last in terms of annual traffic fatalities
per 100,000 population.
- A total of 35,092 people died, and hundreds of thousands more were seriously injured, in traffic
crashes on roads and streets in the United States during 2015.
- The economic impact of crashes in the United States in 2010 was $242 billion in costs related to
medical care, emergency services, legal and court issues, insurance administration, congestion,
property damage and lost wages—this was roughly equivalent to 1.6 percent of the U.S. Gross
Domestic Product (GDP). This cost increased to $836 billion when quality of life considerations
are taken into account.
- From 1949 to 2014, the fatality rate fell from 7.13 to 1.08 fatalities per 100 million vehicle-miles
of travel, even as Americans drove more and more miles. The number of traffic-related fatalities
fell from a peak of 54,500 in 1972 to a low of 32,675 in 2014. However, fatalities increased by 7
percent in 2015, and were on trend for a similar increase in 2016.
An investment of $146 billion in cost-effective highway infrastructure safety improvements has the potential to save an estimated 63,700 lives and prevent 353,560 serious injuries over 20 years. The present value of these safety benefits is approximately $348.4 billion.
Types of infrastructure safety improvements that account for the majority of these benefits include:
- Converting key intersections into roundabouts (nearly 30% of total safety benefits),
- Installing roadside barriers and clearing roadside objects (nearly 20% of total safety benefits),
- Adding sidewalks and signalized pedestrian crossings on the majority of roads (nearly 20% of total safety benefits),
- Installing median barriers on divided highways (14% of total safety benefits),
- Installing shoulder and centerline rumble strips (nearly 9% of total safety benefits),
- Paving and widening shoulders (approximately 3% of total safety benefits).