This month, the Federal Highway Administration (FHA) released its latest tally of motor vehicle traffic in the United States, and its new data reveals Americans are driving more than ever before. In fact, so far this year, U.S. drivers have driven over double the number of miles driven during the comparison year 1981 — and we’ve already passed the 1.54 trillion mile marker in 2015.
You can read all the details about this record in U.S. traffic and Americans driving on our roads in the FHA’s “Traffic Volume Trends” report (published online for free download). Another report to consider with this information: a Department of Transportation report (”Beyond Traffic”) that estimates we will see a 43% jump in commercial truck traffic in the next 30 years.
As an example of how there’s more traffic to deal with here in our part of the country, according to the FHA report, Indiana saw a jump of 3% in traffic on rural roads in one month’s time (June 2014 compared to June 2015).
What does this mean for drivers in Indiana and Illinois?
Well, for one thing more drivers and more traffic mean the greater likelihood for motor vehicle traffic accidents of all kinds: truck crashes, pedestrian accidents, car crashes, motorcycle accidents, etc. Just increasing the amount of traffic means increasing the risk of accidents – and that’s before things like drunk driving or driving with distractions gets included as risk factors.
Road Conditions and Road Maintenance – Is It Keeping Up With All This Traffic?
However, given that the new federal report has traffic increasing for the 16th month in a row, there’s another real concern: road hazards and the infrastructure that exists for all these vehicles. Are state roads and interstate highway systems keeping up with this big increase in roadway use?
Road hazards and problems with roads and highways themselves can cause accidents and serious personal injuries just like driver error, speeding, drunk driving, and other commonly recognized causes of crashes. Things like the following are just a few examples of how the road surfaces themselves can contribute to accidents as the following are known causes of crashes:
- shoulder drop-offs,
- uneven road surfaces caused by lack of care and heavy traffic (wheel ruts), and
- slippery surfaces due to oil collected on a poorly maintained road surfaces.
This year, Congress passed a short-term budget bill and lawmakers will return to consider roadway budgeting issues in the fall. Funding highway infrastructure at both the federal and state levels is a continuing debate on how much money is to be spent and where funds should go.
In the meantime, drivers in Indiana and Illinois can expect to see more people on the roads with them, from the biggest highways to the smallest farm roads.
How safe are our roads? Check our July 2013 post discussing the ranking of Indiana and Illinois highways, “Highway Systems Report Released: Indiana and Illinois Highway Systems Rated and Compared With Nation – How Safe Are Our Highways?”