Traffic safety is a crucial component of transportation planning objectives when roadway developers are looking for ways to improve the driving experience to ensure everyone reaches their destination without harm. In the U.S., traffic accidents claim the lives of more than 32,000 drivers, passengers, bicyclists, and pedestrians every year and leave hundreds of thousands of others injured and disabled. Because of that, safety is a major concern in roadway design, maintenance, and operation.
Roadway engineers understand that there are numerous factors that affect the risk of traveling on highways, expressways, freeways, roads, and streets. This includes the type of travel, the amount of traffic, the types of vehicles, the condition of the street surface and the behavior of every driver sharing the road. Road construction developers have long used effective traffic planning strategies that focus on every risk the motorist faces. This includes distracted driving, drunk driving, poorly designed roads, unsafe vehicles, adverse weather conditions and the changing conditions of traffic during rush-hour.
Road engineers described normal traffic as motor vehicles operated by a sober, responsible drivers traveling in relatively new cars or trucks while wearing a seatbelt and traveling on an efficiently designed road. However, designing and constructing roads that accommodate “normal travel” motorists are not always the best ways to ensure safety when traveling. Instead, statisticians measure safe driving activity and/or behaviors by the numbers of fatalities, injuries or accidents per 100,000 vehicle miles, where the statistics present a much clearer image of how safe roads really are for drivers, passengers, pedestrians, and cyclists.