Driving Safety Linda Gorman

As we go about our daily commute and our lives, we don’t often give much thought to the roads that get us there.

In fact, traffic congestion and a little construction often seem to be an accepted way of life, especially for those who choose to live in the suburbs and drive a fair distance into work each day.

However, the stark truth is that our state’s transportation infrastructure simply isn’t keeping pace with our growing needs.

The fact is, the demand for safer and more efficient roads is just as important now than it was 15 or 20 years ago.

Yet, with more people on our roadways and transportation funds dwindling, the situation is dire.

The decline in state roadwork certainly isn’t due to a lack of growth. According to TRIP, a nonprofit research group, Arizona’s population grew 79 percent between 1990 and 2012, and highway travel increased 68 percent from 1990 to 2011.

According to the Federal Highways Association, nearly 20 percent of Arizona’s roads are in mediocre or poor condition, and 12 percent of the state’s bridges are rated structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.

Our transportation needs across the state and nation are significant and growing. Each year that necessary upgrades are delayed, the cost to complete these projects rises and the country falls further behind in addressing the backlog.

These effects are felt acutely in Arizona, as funding for transportation projects and maintenance has been slashed roughly $350 million over the next five years alone.

Let’s put it into perspective — how does this impact the average road user?

• Driving on roads in need of repair costs you about $371 per year in extra vehicle repairs and operating costs.

• Forty-one percent of the state’s major highways are congested, costing you money in wasted time and fuel.

• Road conditions are a significant factor in about one-third of traffic fatalities.

• Vehicle crashes cost $833 annually for each Arizona resident in medical costs, lost productivity, travel delays, workplace costs, insurance costs and legal costs.

To help ensure safe and efficient roadways in our state, AAA Arizona provided guidance and input on Arizona’s 2014-2018 Five-Year Transportation Facilities Construction Program, which determines where the state’s transportation dollars will be spent.

With limited resources, tough decisions must be made on where to allocate the funds, and AAA supported a combination of preservation and expansion projects.

AAA is a long-time advocate for providing safe and adequate transportation infrastructure. It’s the reason the association was founded in 1902, and it continues to be at the core of our mission.

As part of our commitment to safe roads, AAA will serve on a task force updating the Arizona Strategic Highway Safety Plan with strategies to reduce traffic injuries and fatalities.

This important advocacy work must be done in order to ensure the safety of all road users while meeting Arizona’s transportation needs.

However, it’s also important that residents become engaged in the issue as well, and ask their legislators to act now to preserve and ensure the necessary funding for our transportation needs.

While policy makers must balance all of our state’s needs with fewer resources, it’s time we elevate this discussion. We must recognize the decisions lawmakers make about our transportation network have as much direct impact on our daily lives as anything else they do, as an adequate transportation system sparks commerce, improves our state’s economic vitality and impacts the safety and mobility of everyone.

• Linda Gorman is the communications and public affairs director for AAA Arizona. Reach her at (602) 650-2716 or lgorman@arizona.aaa.com.

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