Safer Roads Help Curb Highway Fatalities

Safer Highways Continue to Play Large Role in Lowest Highway Fatality Rate Since 1949

Roadway Departure and Intersection Fatalities Decrease Shows Encouraging Trend

(Washington, DC) — The Roadway Safety Foundation today commented on the news that traffic fatalities have dropped to their lowest level and rate since 1949.  In 2010, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 32,885 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes, compared with 33,883 in 2009 – a 2.9 percent decline.  In addition, NHTSA reports that the fatality rate – 1.10 fatalities per 100 million Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) – is the lowest ever documented, even at a time of increased vehicle miles traveled.

In 2006, the Federal Highway Administration implemented a new performance-based safety program, known as the Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP).  HSIP greatly increased the amount of federal funds that could be used to eliminate road and roadside hazards.  Research from SAIC has shown that HSIP funding is driving down traffic deaths and injuries, with a benefit cost ratio of 42 to 1.

Because roughly one-third of traffic fatalities are related to the roadway environment itself, Greg Cohen, Executive Director of the Roadway Safety Foundation, expressed delight that both “Roadway Departure” and “Intersection” fatalities are on the decline.  “Roadway Departure” crashes are defined as “A non-intersection crash in which a vehicle crossed an edge line, a center line, or leaves the traveled way.”  Fatalities in these types of crashes account for more than half of overall fatalities.  In 2010, the number of “Roadway Departure” crashes decreased 3.9 percent from 18,052 in 2009 to 17,346 in 2010.   “Intersection” crashes are also on the decline decreasing 7.1 percent from 7,278 in 2009 to 6,758 in 2010.

“These statistics show the importance of well designed and engineered roads,” said Cohen.  “Implementing lifesaving crash countermeasures – such as rumble strips, retroreflective signs and markings, roundabouts, and crash barriers – should be a priority among local, state and federal government officials.”

“The numbers released by NHTSA provide evidence that the engineering enhancements being adopted around the country truly are driving down fatalities. Especially in tough economic times, when resources are scarce, this reminds us that funding for these projects is money well spent, and that such improvements should remain high on our priority list given the staggering number of people killed on our roads.”

Headquartered in Washington, DC, The Roadway Safety Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, educational and charitable organization whose mission is to reduce the frequency and severity of motor vehicle crashes, injuries and fatalities through enhancements to roadway systems and their environment.

On November 15, RSF and the Federal Highway Administration recognized nine exemplary highway projects and programs from across the country as winners of the biennial National Roadway Safety Awards.  The award winners are credited for reducing fatalities and injuries on our Nation’s roadways through excellence and innovation in operations, planning, and design.  Each of the National Roadway Safety Award recipients was evaluated on innovation, effectiveness, and efficient use of resources.

Examples of the award winning programs include the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Micro Surfacing to Reduce Wet Weather Crash Rates Program and the Mississippi DOT’s Cable Median Barrier Safety Initiative.  For additional information on roadway engineering programs that are saving lives, please visit