Did you know that roads that are part of the Texas interstate highway system have the fewest crashes? This is the case even in congested urban areas. The highest crash rate is on farm-to-market roads, with the next highest being state highways and U.S. highways, in that order. Similarly, the safest type of road is a divided road in both urban and rural areas.
History Of The Interstate Highway System
Interstate highways, which are usually made up of four or more lanes divided by a median, have been in existence since 1956, although most of the system has been constructed since that time. Then-President Dwight D. Eisenhower had been impressed by the German autobahns he had seen during World War II. As a general, Eisenhower had taken note of the military benefits of wide roads with gradual inclines and declines – roads that were perfect for moving tanks and other large military vehicles quickly in times of war. As president, he was an eager supporter of highway improvements that would link all major U.S. cities.
Although the public had been reluctant to have the federal government involved in roads, as more and more people began to own cars after WWII, opposition faded away. There were several obvious benefits to having the United States involved in road building. One was that federal and state governments shared the cost, but states retained control of construction and other operational aspects of road-building projects. Improved highway safety was another big benefit. States that accepted federal money for interstate highway projects were required to abide by construction specifications set by the government.
Safety Benefits Of Interstate Highways
The interstate highway system was more or less complete by the late 1970s. The result has been significant change in the culture and daily life of American citizens. Whether these changes have been good or bad is still a matter for debate. However, one aspect of the interstate highway system that most people see as positive is the safety improvements incorporated into the specifications for building these roads.
Interstates were designed for fast and safe travel at high speeds. They bypassed small towns and had wider rights of way and driving lanes, limited access, and medians and roadside ditches designed to act as buffers should a vehicle leave the road.
Traffic fatalities have declined significantly in the United States since 1956. Although some of this decline is certainly attributable to the implementation of vehicle safety features such as seat belts, the development of the interstate highway system is also responsible. For example, in 1956, 37,965 people died in motor vehicle crashes. In 2013, by contrast, 32,719 people died. During that more than 50 years, the U.S. population more than doubled, as did the number of miles traveled. This make the decline in motor vehicle deaths far greater than the raw numbers would suggest, but even those show a decline. Safer roads, especially interstates, have had a significant impact.
The overall decline in traffic fatalities can also be seen in Texas. In 2003, there were 3,822 motor vehicle accident deaths, according to the Texas Department of Transportation. In 2014, there were an estimated 3,534 fatalities. This change came during a period when both the number of miles driven and the population size increased.
For more information about highway safety in Texas, visit the website of the Texas Department of Transportation at https://www.txdot.gov/. If you were injured or lost a loved one in a motor vehicle accident, contact a personal injury lawyer to learn about your rights and options.