Infrastructure investment can help reduce the severity and frequency of future crashes.
La Grange: As Illinois lawmakers confront a growing public outcry related to the safety of the state’s bridges and other vital infrastructure, a new study by the Illinois Economic Policy Institute (ILEPI) suggests car accidents cost the Illinois economy nearly $4 billion per year.
According to data from the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT), there were more than 324,000 crashes on Illinois roads that resulted in 66,703 injuries in 2016. Craighead’s estimates on the economic impact of these accidents are based on a cost model developed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). It includes medical costs, emergency services, workplace absences, increased congestion, and lost productivity—totaling nearly $3.8 billion per year in Illinois alone.
“The overall cost data on Illinois car crashes mirrors what we have seen in prior examinations of bridges, rail systems, and other vital infrastructure,” said study author and ILEPI Transportation Analyst Mary Craighead. “Road safety incidents ripple out to produce much broader effects on the economy, and the challenge is to minimize those events.”
While Craighead notes that increased seatbelt usage and improved vehicle design have likely contributed to an overall reduction in fatal vehicle crashes since 2007, those declines have plateaued. IDOT data shows that road fatalities jumped almost 17% between 2014 and 2016.
“While the long term trends in road safety have generally been positive, the recent increase in fatalities is a warning that we can and must do more.” added Craighead.
Specifically, Craighead highlights recent IDOT data summarizing the causes of the state’s most serious crashes over a four-year period, and notes that strategic investments in roadway design, pavement upgrades, signage, lighting, and other installments could each play an important role in reducing the frequency and severity of car accidents.
“Modernizing Illinois’ transportation infrastructure isn’t just about repairs that only grow more expensive with time,” Craighead concluded. “It’s about making smart investments that save lives and protect our economy from the costly impact of severe roadway accidents.”
The Illinois Economic Policy Institute (ILEPI) is a nonprofit organization which uses advanced statistics, reliable surveying techniques, and the latest forecasting models to analyze policy issues affecting the Illinois economy.