FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
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Highway Users Encouraged by Decline in Road Fatalities Seen in 2009
WASHINGTON, DC (September 10, 2010) – The American Highway Users Alliance, a non-profit organization that represents the interests of drivers and businesses, today commented on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s 2009 Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) data. The data, which show a 9.7 percent decrease in highway fatalities as compared with 2008, also indicates a general trend towards safer roads across a variety of measurements.
“This is encouraging news,” said Greg Cohen, President and CEO of The Highway Users. “Efficient road transportation is integral to our economic and social well-being, and the bottom line is that all of this depends on safety. The price tag of highway crashes – including medical costs, lost wages, property damage, and the like – is a staggering $100-$200 billion, and this doesn’t even begin to account for the pain and suffering of those who lose loved ones in utterly preventable tragedies.”
Specific improvements seen this year include a reduction in fatalities (33,808) to the lowest level since 1950, a reduction in fatality rate (deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled) to the lowest level ever recorded, and a decrease in motorcycle fatalities for the first time in 11 years. All this despite the fact that vehicle miles traveled in the country increased in 2009, following a period of decline correlated with the economic downturn.
“Americans are driving more miles, and are doing so in a safer manner,” Cohen said, though he stressed that the work is far from over. “Traffic crashes remain the leading cause of death for Americans between three and 34 years old, and the fact is that 33,808 fatalities is an enormous and unacceptable number.”
Cohen urged Congress to act on a new highway bill that will provide multiyear funding for major road projects and transportation investments. The current law expired last September, and Cohen said a new bill is the only way to solidify – and expand upon – the progress made in highway safety in recent years.
“We cannot invest in our infrastructure in fits and starts,” Cohen said. “Roadway projects require careful planning, stable funding, and appropriate follow-through to ensure they are successful from an operational and safety perspective. The cost of this is more than justified by the economic savings and reduction in pain and suffering that safer roads bring about.”
Cohen referred to the results of a study released in June by the American Traffic Safety Services Association (Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP) Obligations and Fatalities on U.S. Highways: Final Report) which concluded that funding increases for roadway engineering projects – made available through the Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP) – could be credited in large part with a dramatic reduction in highway fatalities seen every year since 2006. The report noted that HSIP, established under the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act – A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) played a more significant role in this reduction than other factors, such as a downturn in travel and an uptick in seatbelt usage.
“Safer roadways drive down fatalities; they save lives,” Cohen said. “Now is the time to solidify the downward trend in highway deaths by redoubling our safety efforts and prioritizing the adequate – and stable – funding of our nation’s roads.”
The American Highway Users Alliance represents motorists, RV enthusiasts, truckers, bus companies, motorcyclists, and a broad cross-section of businesses that depend on safe and efficient highways to transport their families, customers, employees, and products. Highway Users members pay the taxes that finance the federal highway program and advocate public policies that dedicate those taxes to improved highway safety and mobility.