America’s roads, bridges and tunnels are falling apart. The conversation in Washington about ways to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure is ongoing. Estimates have risen as high as $7 trillion, spent over years, with hundreds of thousands of jobs, perhaps most of them new. Are these poor roads a cause of traffic fatalities? The answer is that it can be studied but not proven conclusively. There are, However, by state, traffic fatalities range widely, particularly when weighted by population.
The Reason Foundation has released its “25th Annual Highway Report,” which is an evaluation of state highways. It balances the cost of maintaining highways compared to their quality.
The methodology given by the authors is simple:
To determine relative performance across the country, state highway system budgets (per mile of responsibility) are compared with system performance, state by state. States with high ratings typically have better-than-average system conditions (good for road users) along with relatively low per-mile expenditures (good for taxpayers).
The methodology goes back to the 1990s, although it has been updated occasionally.
The data used was collected in 2018 and 2019. Among the major findings is that more rural states have better roads. When highway quality is rated across all the metrics used by the Reason Foundation, North Dakota ranks first and New Jersey last.
The “25th Annual Highway Report” has among its considerations the fatality rate across a state’s highways. Oddly, the primary reason the researchers say fatalities have increased likely is distracted driving, which appears to have no relationship to road quality.
“25th Annual Highway Report” posts fatality rates based on 100 million vehicle miles. The report says, “For 2018, Massachusetts reported the overall lowest fatality rate, 0.54, while, South Carolina reported the highest, 1.83.”
Here is the ranking of all 50 states based on the metrics used in the report: