Bipartisan Road Safety Solutions

Aug. 14, 2023
How the IIJA is helping combat road fatalities

By Ryan Curtiss, Digital Editor

America faces a safety crisis on its roads, and the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) might provide a solution. 

Let’s start with the problem at hand: Road fatalities were higher in 2022 than just three years earlier, according to a report by the National Transportation Research Nonprofit (TRIP).

The TRIP report, titled “Addressing America’s Traffic Safety Crisis,” states that: “Addressing the nation’s traffic safety challenge will require a comprehensive approach based on a belief that deaths and serious injuries on our roadways are unacceptable, and that people will make mistakes, but those mistakes should not lead to death or serious injury.” 

In 2019, motorists traveled approximately 3.3 trillion miles on America’s roads and highways with 36,096 traffic fatalities, according to TRIP. That rate is 1.11 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel (VMT).

Fatalities in work zones increased by 13% from 2019 to 2021, rising from 845 deaths to 956.

Crashes take an emotional and financial toll on our country. The report estimates that serious and fatal crashes in 2022 caused a total of $1.9 trillion in the value of societal harm, including $465 billion in economic costs and $1.4 trillion in quality-of-life costs.

The increase in traffic fatalities appeared to be related to an increase of drivers taking risks, according to a February 2022 brief from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety (AAAFTS).

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that from 2019 to 2022 drunk-driving fatalities increased 22%, passengers killed by not wearing seatbelts increased by 20%, and speeding-related fatalities increased by 23%.

From 2019 to 2021, distracted driving fatalities increased by 13%. 

Luckily, the IIJA makes road safety a priority. In 2022, the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) adopted a National Roadway Safety Strategy that is based on a Safe System approach to address the crisis on our nation’s roadways. 

This Safe System approach has five objectives:

  • Safer People: Encouraging safety and responsible behavior on the roads.

  • Safer Roads: Designing roadways to minimize human error.

  • Safer Vehicles: Increase the availability of vehicle systems and features to prevent accidents.

  • Safer Speeds: Promote safer speeds on all roadways.

  • Post-Crash Care: Enhance the survivability of crashes through emergency medical care.

A 2017 report from the AAAFTS says the U.S. has $146 billion in backlog needed for roadway safety improvements. It found that investing in roadway improvements will save approximately 63,700 lives and reduce serious injuries from traffic accidents by approximately 350,000 over a 20-year period.

The IIJA provides a $454 billion investment over a five-year period into highways and transit. This gives the nation an opportunity to improve safety on the roadways. Additional funding will go to addressing traffic safety. Programs such as Safe Streets and Roads for All will get an investment of $6 billion, the Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP) will see $17 billion, and rural road safety programs will get $300 million.

Addressing the traffic safety problem on our nation’s roadway is easier said than done. However, having a plan is the first step to fixing this crisis. Investing in not only our roadways but in transportation agencies will help bridge the gap in road accidents. R&B

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