Out of Control Policy Blog

Are toll roads safer?

Highway fatality numbers are in: 42,815 dead in 2002. That’s 42,815 more deaths than from commercial air travel. OK, so it’s not exactly apples to apples, but it still helps show how comparatively safe air travel is, and how we should resist regulations that hassle travelers into choosing cars over planes.

There are some other points of interest regarding highway fatalities.

Simple measures mean a lot. If you want to be safer on the road, don’t drink and drive and wear your seatbelt:

Alcohol-related fatalities remained unchanged at 41 percent of the total, or 17,419. And nearly 60 percent of the total number of people killed in auto crashes last year were not wearing seat belts.

And on a more theoretical level, how might toll roads make auto travel safer? We know that driving fast isn’t nearly as dangerous as driver speed variability. As long as everyone’s moving along nice and smoothly, roads will be safer. On a related note, accordion traffic increases danger. Again, free flow is nice and safe.

And free flow is exactly what tolls emphasize. Getting there faster is an advantage, but so is getting there safer.

As more private firms manage roads we can also expect better roadside service. The firm that operates California’s 91 Express Lanes has its own team of servicemen who will tow your car, give you some gas—anything to keep traffic flowing.

Ted Balaker is Producer


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