The National Academies

NCHRP 20-24(68) [Completed]

Estimating the Costs to State Governments Due to Highway-Related Debilitating Injury and Fatal Crashes
[ NCHRP 20-24 (Administration of Highway and Transportation Agencies) ]

  Project Data
Funds: $132,290
Research Agency: NAVIGATS, Inc.
Principal Investigator: Geni Bahar
Effective Date: 4/6/2009
Completion Date: 8/31/2011


State department of transportation (DOT) officials responsible for safety programs consistently have difficulty building and maintaining interest and support among governors, legislators, and other high-level policy makers. While such officials acknowledge the importance of safety as a matter of public policy, issues of budgeting scarce fiscal resources and serving the varied interests of their political constituencies are primary concerns, and these interests often do not include safety and—as cases ranging from highway speed limits to motorcycle helmets illustrate—may even run counter to programs to enhance public safety.

Because high-level policy makers are reliably concerned about fiscal matters, ability to demonstrate the impact of safety programs on state spending and revenues should enhance the ability of responsible DOT officials to secure support for safety programs. However, these DOT officials currently lack good information on the influence of road safety on state budgets. Highway crashes entailing debilitating injuries or fatalities have direct impact on state spending in several areas such as health care and emergency services, maintenance and repair, disability payments, insurance, and litigation, and arguably reduce future revenues. Research is needed to provide these officials with tools and information to asses the influence of road safety on their states’ budgets.

The Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act – A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) substantially increased funding in the Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP) and required DOTs to develop Strategic Highway Safety Plans (SHSPs) that address the critical “4Es of highway safety:” engineering, enforcement, education, and emergency medical services (EMS). In developing an SHSP, a DOT analyzes safety data and establishes strategies to address problems with a comprehensive set of actions incorporating the 4Es. States are required to adopt strategic and performance goals in their SHSPs to focus resources on areas of greatest need for improvement. A result of the requirement for SHSPs has been collection of data that may be analyzed to describe the influence of road safety on state budgets.


The objectives of this project are (1) to develop a methodology and electronic template to quantify the impacts of fatal and serious injury crashes on a state’s overall operating budget, (2) using the methodology and template conduct two case studies using the states of Pennsylvania and Minnesota, and (3) develop a prototypical presentation format.


Accomplishing the project’s objectives will entail at least the following tasks: (1). Assemble data on crashes entailing debilitating injuries or fatalities and the budgetary consequences of those crashes. Data to be collected shall include state-agency costs attributable to crash occurrence and severity, for example unemployment costs, disability payments, welfare costs, Medicaid costs; law enforcement expenditures, adjudication, court and jail expenses; EMS costs, hospital and trauma center costs, coroner costs; incident management and crash cleanup expenses, repairs to roadway structures and appurtenances; and safety workforce expenditures. (2). Develop an analysis methodology for analyzing the data collected in Task 1 to assess the impact of crashes on state budgets. (3). Apply the methodology to the two case study states’ data. The analysis shall be done on specific types of crashes, such as lane departure, intersections, impaired drivers, motorcycles, etc. (4). Prepare an interim report. documenting the methodology and analyses. (5). Meet with the project panel in person or via teleconference to discuss the methodology, analyses, and use of such analyses by DOT safety officials. (6). Develop prototypical analysis presentation. Using the results of Task 3 and discussions with the project panel present the analysis results in a fashion likely to influence high level decision makers, for example, a 2-page executive summary with facts, graphics, and other images illustrating the impact of highway crashes entailing debilitating injuries or fatalities on a state’s budget and actions that state officials might implement to reduce the state’s costs. (7). Meet with the project panel via teleconference to discuss draft presentation material. Revise the presentations based on panel comments. (8). Prepare a final report. Prepare a final report documenting the project and providing guidance to DOT safety officials on data collection, use of the analysis methodology, and presentation of the results. Include in the report the two prototype presentations and other materials that may have been prepared in the study that would serve as templates for officials to use in their own states.

STATUS: The crash cost calculator and executive summary report have been posted on the AASHTO safety portal: USRoadwaySafety.org.

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