The compelling sorrow of the tragedy the Winklers suffered is repeated thousands of times each year in every state. In Missouri, we endured more than 1,100 traffic deaths last year, an increase over the previous year, and tens of thousands of disabling injuries. Our panel's topic, safety, has been given little singular focus in recent Federal transportation bills. Instead, current law in an attempt to be all-inclusive has been restricted, actually restricted the use of funds in certain categories, most notably enhancements and congestion mitigation funds from being used to improve highway safety.
The administration recently rolled out its NEXTEA proposal. This effort goes even beyond ISTEA in diminishing highway safety by increasing by 30 percent the funding in congestion mitigation and transportation enhancement categories which effectively prohibit the use of these funds to enhance safety.
This administration's proposal is more interested in supporting projects designed to strengthen the cultural, aesthetic and environmental aspects of our transportation system than applying known solutions to our highway safety problems.
While supportive of the nation's environmental and aesthetic goals, AAA questions whether those goals are more appropriate uses of motorists' taxes than is investing in saving lives, lessening injuries and reducing accidents.
To steal a phrase from the current hit movie Jerry Maguire, "Show me the money." AAA asks Congress and this administration to "Show us the safety improvements."
There are some in the administration and Congress that view the Highway Trust Fund which is responsible for the bulk of highway improvements in this country that view it as a bloated cash cow with enough teats for every possible special interest or advocacy group.
AAA has long held that diversion of highway user funds for non-highway purposes is wrong and injurious to the health of our nation. ISTEA created numerous programs and stakeholders that annually divert billions and billions of dollars, away from critically-needed investment in construction, repair and maintenance of our roads and bridges.
These and other diversions of funds from critically-needed highway improvements means safety must be further deferred. With limited resources, we must recognize that choices, intelligent choices must be made to achieve what is most important to the public. And what is more important than their safety?
A recent poll of more 4,000 AAA members in our area found that their No. 1 highway improvement priority was four-laning of two-lane roads. They also sought to have greater use of safety features on our highways.
The material provided to this committee on the results of a study by the AAA Foundation for traffic safety on the safety effects resulting from approval of the National Highway System shows the safety benefits we can expect if we chose to use our resources wisely.
For example, by increasing lane width to 12 feet, we can expect a reduction in accidents of 12 to 40 percent. By increasing shoulder widths by two to eight feet, we can get accident reduction of seven to 28 percent. By removing roadside hazards from within five to 20 feet of the roadway would get a 13 to 44 percent fewer accidents. By reducing the curvature of a road by degrees, we can expect 15 to 75 percent fewer accidents. And by installing median barriers, we improve our accident rate by 10 to 20 percent.
The AAA study also conservatively estimated that for every dollar invested in accident reduction a $3 benefit is received.
These are the kinds of highway improvements that are being deferred or ignored in Missouri and in other states because both ISTEA and NEXTEA call for diverting funds from these and other critical safety needs.
The Highway Trust Fund is not a cash cow. We cannot afford to embrace narrow interests at the expense of the safety of our nation's road users. We here in Missouri want to be shown the safety improvements. Thank you.