Often it's where the rubber meets the road that makes all the difference. In Texas, highways are safer now thanks to hundreds of projects completed in recent years to add shoulders and width to more than 1,000 miles of rural, two-lane highways.
An analysis of 189 Texas Dept. of Transportation (TxDOT) road projects around the state shows that wider pavements make highways safer and result in fewer crashes.
Texas Transportation Institute analyzed three years of pre- and post-improvement data on more than 1,000 miles of narrow two-lane highways that had been widened. And the results show that on 1,159 miles of recently added highway shoulders, there were 133 fewer fatalities and 895 fewer injuries compared to prior to the road widewning.
TTI estimates that similar projects could save up to 44 lives each year or 880 lives over 20 years, and, prevent 298 injuries or 5,960 injuries over the same period.
Of course road widening boils down to physics. When drivers have options available they can choose a safe option if the current lane and path they're driving puts them at risk. When we don't have a shoulder to help avert collision we become insurance industry statistics.
Phil Wilson, TxDOT's executive director, says the roadway widening initiative has been a trememdous success both for increasing safety on Texas highways and potentially saving billions associated with fatal crashes and sustained injuries.
In 2003 voters gave the Texas Transportation Commission the authority to issue $3 billion in bonds to pay for state highway improvements. The law stipulated that 20 percent of the amount must be used to fund projects that would reduce crashes or improve hazardous locations on the state system. The Texas legislature later increased the bonding authority to $6 billion.
Clearly, the numbers are encouraging and it appears that public investment in safety is saving lives and expense. That's what government is supposed to do, isn't it?!