The number of traffic deaths on Arizona’s roads is at a 16-year low, a figure that highlights the success of the Arizona Department of Transportation and other public safety agencies in their work to create safer roadways and to educate motorists about safe driving habits. The 16-year low also represents a challenge to continue reducing traffic deaths on roads and highways.
In data released by the U.S. Department of Transportation, Arizona had 807 traffic fatalities in 2009—the lowest number since 1993. In 2008, 938 people lost their lives in crashes around the state. Viewed in relation to traffic volume, there were 1.29 fatalities per million miles traveled in 2009, down from 1.52 fatalities per million miles in 2008.
Over the past two years, Arizona has seen a 14 percent decrease in roadway fatalities.
Although there is no single contributing factor to the significant decrease in traffic fatalities around the state, ADOT credits a focus on “The Four Es” of roadway safety: engineering, enforcement, emergency response and education to reduce the number of traffic deaths.
“ADOT’s number one priority is to design, build and maintain safe highways for those who rely on them every day,” said ADOT Director John Halikowski. “There are a variety of modern improvements that we have already made to our state highway system and continue to implement. This includes enhancements to the roadway and the addition of technology along our freeways. All of these innovations work together with law enforcement officers and others in the safety sector to create a safer driving experience.”
Shoulder rumble strips are one innovation ADOT has installed throughout the entire state highway system. Rumble strips are the roadway-edge warning grooves cut into the pavement to alert drivers when they have drifted onto the shoulder. They are proven to reduce crashes by 33 percent. Other roadway safety improvements include:
Raised and reflective pavement markers
Larger traffic signals on our state highways
Guardrail end caps that act as crash cushions
Wider stripes on Arizona’s entire highway system: ADOT uses 6-inch wide stripes; the national standard calls for 4-inch wide stripes
Cable barrier has been installed in the urban areas since 2000
Brighter freeway signs
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released data showing that highway deaths fell to 33,808 nationally during 2009, the lowest number since 1950. This record-breaking decline in traffic fatalities occurred even as the estimated vehicle miles traveled in 2009 slightly increased over 2008 levels. This means fewer deaths occurred, despite more driving.
ADOT records similar data each year through its Crash Facts reports. The reports record the total number of fatalities on both local streets and state highways and the causes of those fatal crashes, along with tracking other crash statistics. ADOT works with this information to develop key strategies in its public safety outreach to help lower the number of fatal crashes around the state. The past decade of Crash Facts reports is available at http://www.azdot.gov/mvd/statistics/crash/.
ADOT also takes aggressive steps to prevent highway deaths through partnerships with law enforcement and the work of its Enforcement and Compliance Division, which focuses on established enforcement programs such as commercial vehicle safety, DUI prevention, and the use of tools like ignition interlock devices. These are all key components of ADOT’s public safety mission.
Through the Strategic Highway Safety Plan, ADOT partners with other agencies, such as the Arizona Department of Public Safety, the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, and various traffic court systems throughout the state to strive towards zero traffic deaths. More information on Arizona’s public safety education efforts can be found at http://az.zerofatalities.com/.