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New Angle on Highway Deaths

A non-governmental Washington group challenges many common beliefs about automotive safety.

by on Jul.06, 2009

Road design, not car design, is more critical in preventing injuries and saving lives.

Road design, not car design, is more critical in preventing injuries and saving lives.

Deficient roadways are a far greater factor in vehicle safety matters than previously believed by most safety experts, according to the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation (PIRE), which is funded by the Transportation Construction Coalition of road builders.

The study, perhaps not coincidentally, appears as Congress is due to debate how much money is going to be spent on highway construction in future years. Highway funds–whether for new roads or maintenance–are paid for with gasoline taxes, and the trust fund that allocates the money for roads is currently bankrupt.

The study says that “deficiencies in the roadway environment” contribute to more than 22,000 fatalities and cost the nation more than $217 billion annually. The shortcomings include such items as “unforgiving” trees and light poles, dimly marked pavement, lack of rumble strips on road shoulders, lack of guardrails or safety barriers, and a paucity of signs with easy-to-read legends. 

It's safe!

It's safe!

Titled “On a Crash Course: The Dangers and Health Costs of Deficient Roadways,” PIRE claims that the cost from bad road environments far exceeds that of alcohol abuse ($130 billion), speeding ($97 billion) and failing to wear seat belts ($60 billion). 

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