A cost curve to improve road safety

Each year, traffic crashes kill more than 1.2 million people around the world and injure up to 50 million.

  • In fact, they are the leading cause of death among people 15 to 29 years oldand cost the global economy around $518 billion.
  •  Many of these casualties are preventable, but governments can have difficulty knowing where to begin. There are tested ways to improve road safety, but a lot of them are not widely known, so it’s challenging to find all available countermeasures, sort through them, and determine which are most relevant for a particular area.
With ever-tighter budgets facing national governments and localities—which have primary responsibility for traffic laws, vehicle-safety regulations, and developing and maintaining road infrastructure—they often must make difficult choices. We have developed a road-safety cost curve that makes it possible to compare the impact and expense of different road-safety countermeasures and researched more than 200 of them in the academic and corporate literature. A European city that has been using our approach plans to invest approximately €5 million a year through 2020 in a variety of prioritized countermeasures expected to cut traffic fatalities and severe injuries in half. A large proportion of these investments will be funded by reallocating resources already in the budget, not new money. Ultimately, the program will be cost negative, saving the city about €60 million a year. The exhibit shows how cost curves can help governments determine which relevant countermeasures have the highest impact for the money.
                             The curve’s y-axis shows each proposed countermeasure’s cost, offset by the number of deaths and injuries it can prevent and their associated expense to society. The x-axis shows how many fatalities and severe injuries the countermeasure could prevent each year. Those that save the most lives per euro are on the left of the curve."""