With nearly 650 traffic fatalities each year, Arkansas has a higher rate of deaths on streets and highways than 41 other states, according to a report released by a national transportation research group.
“Getting Home Safely: An Analysis of Highway Safety in Arkansas,” released by the Washington D.C.-based nonprofit TRIP, shows that Arkansas’ ninth-worst-in-the-nation fatality rate is 40 percent higher than the national average.
The report was commissioned by the Arkansas Good Roads Transportation Council, which advocates for road improvements, and also includes a list of safety features that the groups say could reduce the occurrence of fatal crashes.
Carolyn Bonifas, the associate director of research and communications for TRIP, said traffic crashes killed 3,230 people in Arkansas between 2001 and 2005, or an average of 646 fatalities per year. The majority of people killed were on rural, non-Interstate roads, she said.
“What we found was quite alarming,” Bonifas said at a news conference. “Though only about half of travel occurs on rural, non-Interstate roads, they account for more than two-thirds of the fatalities.”
Arkansas has had 60 traffic fatalities so far this year, according to the Arkansas State Police Web site.
Bonifas said several factors contribute to the high number of fatalities, like inadequate safety design, narrow lanes, limited shoulders and longer emergency response times in rural areas.
The addition of rumble strips, increased lane markings and straightening curves on the roadways could reduce the numbers of fatalities, she said.
Johnny Bolin, the Arkansas Good Roads Transportation Council’s executive director, said the council commissioned the report to increase awareness of road conditions in the state. Raising awareness will help generate funding for repairs and improvements to the state’s roads, he said.
“I’ve had several calls from people telling me that they had no idea we were ranked No. 9,” Bolin said. “In Arkansas, we like to be in the top 10, but not when it comes to something like this.”
Bolin said improving the roads will benefit the state in other areas, including economic and business and tourism.
“The design of our highways is so important,” Bolin said. “We all need good, safe efficient roads to drive on.”
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