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TRIP report indicates rural roadways twice as deadly for motorists

Roadway safety infrastructure investment can save lives on rural roadways

Our nation’s rural roadways need repair and modernization, to improve access and safety. A recent report from TRIP, titled “Rural Connections: Challenges and Opportunities in America’s Heartland,” echoes ATSSA’s message on the need for investment in roadway safety infrastructure on our rural roadways.  

The report looked at the safety and condition of the country’s rural roadways and bridges and found that the rural transportation system needs immediate improvements to counteract deficient roadways and bridges, high crash rates, and poor connectivity.

According to the report, fifteen percent of U.S. rural roads are rated in poor condition, and 21 percent are in mediocre condition. Additionally, the report found that “traffic crashes and fatalities on rural non-Interstate roads are disproportionately high, occurring at a rate nearly two-and-a-half times higher than on all other roads. In 2017, non-Interstate rural roads had a traffic fatality rate of 2.14 deaths for every 100 million vehicle miles of travel, compared to a fatality rate on all other roads of 0.88 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles of travel.” The top five states with rural roads classified in poor condition were Rhode Island, South Carolina, Iowa, California, and New Mexico.

There are several cost-effective roadway safety infrastructure devices and products that can make rural roadways safer and reduce serious injuries and fatalities. Among these countermeasures are rumble strips, improved retroreflective signage and pavement markings, guardrail, chevrons and post-mounted delineators along curves, and high friction surface treatments.

“We know that roadway safety infrastructure devices save lives, especially on our nation’s rural roadways. Rural roads often pose challenges that aren’t present on the interstate highway system to a motorist, that can be reduced or mitigated with maintenance and roadway safety countermeasures. As we move Toward Zero Deaths on our nation’s roadways, investing in rural roadways is crucial. It’s not only the right thing to do from a safety perspective, but from an economic one as well, as many rural communities rely on their transportation systems for access to goods, services, and economic opportunity,” said ATSSA’s President and CEO Roger Wentz.

According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, the country has a $146 billion backlog in roadway safety improvements and investing in these improvements on our roadways has the potential to save approximately 63,700 lives and reduce serious injuries due to traffic crashes by approximately 350,000 over the next 20 years. Ensuring long-term solvency of the Highway Trust Fund, reauthorizing the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, and passing an infrastructure package in Congress are all crucial steps in improving the condition and safety of rural roadways across the country.

“The health of the nation’s economy and the safety and quality of life in America’s small communities and rural areas ride on our rural transportation system. Our rural roads and bridges provide crucial links from farm to market, move manufactured and energy products, and provide access to countless tourism, social and recreational destinations,” said TRIP Executive Director Will Wilkins in a release. “Fixing the federal Highway Trust Fund with a long-term, sustainable source of revenue that supports the transportation investment needed will be crucial to the modernization of our rural transportation system.”

Read the report.

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