Approved by the Transportation Policy Committee April 18, 2023
Approved by the Policy Review Committee on August 23, 2023
Adopted by the Board of Direction on October 17, 2023


The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) supports a significant, sustained effort to reduce traffic crashes and related fatalities, injuries, and property damage. This can be accomplished through improvements in all aspects of highway system planning, design, construction, and operation as well as continued rapid implementation of safety improvement programs and technology.

Among other measures, highway safety programs should include:

  • Providing a safe environment for all users of the highway system.
  • Reducing the number of crashes, injuries, and fatalities on the highways, including work zones, moving toward Vision Zero.
  • Increasing public awareness of safety issues and encouraging responsible behavior among all users of the highways.
  • Implementing effective engineering, research, education, and enforcement strategies to improve highway safety.
  • Continued understanding of rapidly evolving vehicle characteristics and their impact on infrastructure and safety.
  • Developing educational campaigns targeting drivers, passengers, and pedestrians that emphasize responsible behavior and safe practices by working with schools, community organizations, government partners, and other stakeholders to promote highway safety and encourage safe driving habits.
  • Providing increased flexibility in federal-aid funding programs for high priority highway safety improvement programs.
  • Supporting legislation that reduces distracted and impaired driving and increases driver penalties for all violations, including speeding in work zones.


The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates 42,915 people were killed in motor vehicle traffic crashes on U.S. roadways in 2021, a 10.5% increase from 2020. The estimate is the highest number of fatalities since 2005 and the largest annual increase in the Fatality Analysis Reporting System’s history. Vulnerable road users, such as pedestrians, cyclists, and people who use wheelchairs, accounted for approximately 20% of the 2021 fatalities. This represented an increase of 20% over 2020. Pedestrian fatalities were estimated to be 7,342; the highest in four decades.

As highway usage continues to grow, industry, federal, state, and local cooperation and funding are needed to preserve mobility while reducing the frequency and severity of traffic crashes. This effort should include a vigorous, enhanced, and integrated program of safety research, effective engineering-related system improvements, and driver education and training to save lives and reduce the loss of human resources. The status quo comes with a high price tag.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the population-based motor vehicle crash death rate in the U.S. in 2019 was the highest among 29 high-income countries. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimated 42,915 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes in 2021, marking a 16-year high. The economic impact is also notable. The National Safety Council (NSC) estimated that total motor vehicle crashes costs $474 billion in 2020.


Highway safety is critical, with safer roadway systems reducing the loss of life, personal injuries, and loss of economic resources. Highway safety initiatives include public awareness and education, sound engineering and operating practices, effective enforcement, and continuing research supplemented by analysis and development of new and innovative traffic safety products and technologies to meet safety goals. Safety initiatives must also take into account elements of human factors; pedestrians, bicyclists, and other system users; motor vehicles and their equipment; the infrastructure; and the manner in which these components interact.

ASCE Policy Statement 367
First Approved in 1990