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Policy Statement 367 - Highway Safety

 
Approved by the Transportation Policy Committee on March 13, 2020
Approved by the Policy Review Committee on May 11, 2020
Adopted by the Board of Direction on July 11, 2020

Policy

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) advocates a significant, sustained effort be undertaken to reduce traffic crashes and related deaths and injuries through improvements in all aspects of highway system performance improved standards for planning and design, better understanding of accident causation, and continued implementation of safety improvement programs.

ASCE supports a program where significant improvements in highway safety and the resulting reduction of property damage, injuries and deaths can be achieved by:

  • Increase funding for and further advance the USDOT's Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP);
  • Fully funding and implementing performance and outcome based programs established for the Federal Aid Highway Program under the FAST Act to reach the Safety Goal of meeting performance targets achieving a significant reduction in traffic fatalities and serious injuries on all public roads;
  • Establishing and maintaining complete, current and accurate electronic traffic crash data to better understand high crash locations and to apply proven safety countermeasures to roadways;
  • Inspecting and auditing existing roadway systems to identify roadway hazards and safety improvement opportunities, and implementing highway and other engineering-related improvements proven effective in reducing the potential for, and severity of, traffic crashes;
  • Implementing innovative highway safety design features, proven effective in reducing the potential for, and severity of, traffic crashes on public roadways;
  • Enhancing the organizational prominence of highway safety within federal, state, and local transportation agencies to provide a more effective voice in agency administration, leadership development, and program direction;
  • Improving work zone safety and mobility; 
  • Continuing to improve understanding of motor vehicle performance characteristics, as well as the interaction between vehicle standards and highway system design on highway safety and to improve the overall effectiveness of existing motor vehicle standards;
  • Continued advancement and support of Connected and Automated Vehicle research, design and implementation;
  • Supporting additional funding for highway safety research and educational programs for both highway safety professionals and students at the University level; 
  • Expanding the development and application of Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) programs to enhance highway traffic safety;
  • Increasing law enforcement to address driver behavior and other factors contributing to crashes; 
  • Improving and expanding public education programs to increase driver awareness of attitudes and behavior that affect highway safety;
  • Providing flexibility in federal aid funding programs for high priority highway safety improvement programs, and to continue targeting national safety problems through categorical funding; 
  • Supporting the implementation of the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration's (NHTSA) multi-year Distraction Plan and Research Agenda, and encouraging State and Local agencies to reduce crashes and fatalities by addressing distracted driving in Strategic Highway Safety Plans and through legislation and public education; and
  • Advancing the mission of Vision Zero to reduce traffic-related fatalities and serious injuries to zero.  

Issue

In 2018, a total of 6,734,000 crashes occurred on roadways in the United States, including 33,654 fatal crashes that resulted in 36,560 deaths including 6,283 pedestrians and 857 cyclists. This represents approximately 1.13 fatalities per million vehicle miles of travel.  This was a 2.4% decrease in fatalities from 2017, with the lowest fatality rate since 2014. Injury crashes increased to 1,894,000 with 2,709,000 injuries in 2018.

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, 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), vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death in the United States, with over 100 people dying every day.  For every person killed in a motor vehicle crash, 9 people were hospitalized and 88 were treated and released in emergency departments.  The economic impact is also notable.  The National Safety Council (NSC) estimated that total motor vehicle injury costs alone totaled $445.6 billion in 2018.  These costs include medical expenses, wage and productivity losses, motor vehicle property damage, administrative expenses and employer costs.

Rationale

Highway safety is critical, with safer roadway systems reducing the loss of life, personal injuries, and loss of economic resource.  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


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