U.S. Department of Transportation
Federal Highway Administration
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20590

Skip to content U.S. Department of Transportation/Federal Highway AdministrationU.S. Department of Transportation/Federal Highway Administration

Policy and Governmental Affairs

FHWA Home / Policy & Governmental Affairs / 2002 Conditions and Performance

Conditions and Performance

Status of the Nation's Highways, Bridges, and Transit:
2002 Conditions and Performance Report

Executive Summary
Skip Navigators
Executive Summary
Part I: Description of Current System
Ch1: The Role of Highways and Transit
Ch2: System and Use Characteristics
Ch3: System Conditions
Ch4: Operational Performance
Ch5: Safety Performance
Ch6: Finance

Part II: Investment Performance Analyses
Ch7: Capital Investment Requirements
Ch8: Comparison of Spending and Investment Requirements
Ch9: Impacts of Investment
Ch10: Sensitivity Analysis

Part III: Bridges
Ch11: Federal Bridge Program Status of the Nation's Bridges

Part IV: Special Topics
Ch12: National Security
Ch13: Highway Transportation in Society
Ch14: The Importance of Public Transportation
Ch15: Macroeconomic Benefits of Highway Investment
Ch16: Pricing
Ch17: Transportation Asset Management
Ch18: Travel Model Improvement Program
Ch19: Air Quality
Ch20: Federal Safety Initiatives
Ch21: Operations Strategies
Ch22: Freight

Part V: Supplemental Analyses of System Components
Ch23: Interstate System
Ch24: National Highway System
Ch25: NHS Freight Connectors
Ch26: Highway-Rail Grade Crossings
Ch27: Transit Systems on Federal Lands

Appendix A: Changes in Highway Investment Requirements Methodology
Appendix B: Bridge Investment/Performance Methodology
Appendix C: Transit Investment Condition and Investment Requirements Methodology
List of Contacts

Ch 5: Safety Performance


Safety is the top priority for the U.S. Department of Transportation. The Safety Strategic Goal in the Department's 2003 Performance Plan aims to "promote the public health and safety by working toward the elimination of transportation-related deaths and injuries."

Over the past thirty years, remarkable progress has been made in making highways safer, with highways becoming safer even as travel sharply increased. The exhibit below, for example, describes the fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled from 1980 to 2000. The fatality rate has decreased, from 3.3 in 1980 to 1.5 in 2000, which met the Department's Performance Plan target.

The injury rate has also declined in recent years, as detailed in the exhibit below. In 1988, the rate was 169 per 100 million vehicle miles traveled; by 2000, that rate had dropped to 116. While significant, the declining injury rate falls short of the Performance Plan goal of 113 per 100 million vehicle miles.

Alcohol impairment is a leading cause of crashes and a serious public safety problem in the United States. In 2000, alcohol was involved in 40 percent of fatal crashes and 8 percent of all crashes.

There are three main groups involved in alcohol-impaired driving:
  • The largest group, 21- to 34-year-old adults, was responsible for 31 percent of all fatal crashes in 2000. Studies show that these drivers tend to have much higher levels of intoxication than other age groups.
  • Chronic drunk drivers are another large group. Fatally injured drivers with a blood alcohol concentration greater than 0.10 grams per deciliter were six times as likely to have a prior conviction for driving while intoxicated than fatally injured sober drivers.
  • Finally, underage drinkers are disproportionately over-represented in impaired driving statistics.
Speeding and alcohol impairment are closely linked in many crashes. In 2000, 23 percent of underage speeding drivers involved in fatal crashes were intoxicated. By contrast, 10 percent of underage nonspeeding drivers involved in fatal crashes were intoxicated.

While the number of overall highway fatalities and injuries has decreased in recent years, this is not uniformly true for all vehicle groups. The number of occupants killed in passenger cars, for instance, decreased from 21,566 in 1993 to 20,492 in 2000. In contrast, the number of occupants killed in light and large trucks, motorcycles, and other vehicles all increased during this period.


Public transit in the United States has been and continues to be a highly safe mode of transportation as evidenced by the decrease in incidents, injuries, and fatalities reported by transit service providers for the vehicles they operate directly. (They exclude occurrences on contracted transportation).

Reportable transit safety incidents include collisions and any other type of occurrence (e.g., derailment) that result in injury or death, or fire or property damage in excess of $1,000. Injuries and fatalities include those suffered by riders as well as by pedestrians, bicyclists, and people in other vehicles. Injuries and fatalities may occur either while traveling or while boarding, lighting, or waiting a for a transit vehicle.

In absolute terms, incidents were 36 percent lower in 2000 than in 1990, injuries 7 percent higher, and fatalities 11 percent lower. When adjusted for changes in the level of transit usage, incidents per 100 million passenger miles traveled (PMT) fell from 251 in 1990 to 142 in 2000-a decrease of 45 percent. Injuries per 100 million PMT fell from 148 to 135, a decrease of 9 percent; and fatalities declined from .89 to .69, a decrease of 25 percent. Transit vehicles that travel by road have higher incident and injury rates than those that travel on fixed guideways. Incident and injury rates have consistently been the highest for demand response vehicles with widely fluctuating fatality rates often well above those for other types of transit services. Buses, likewise, have consistently had incident and injury rates above rail transit modes, but unlike demand response vehicles, buses rank among the lowest in fatality rates. Commuter rail, by contrast, has had the lowest incident and injury rates.

Fatality rates for light rail have, on average, been higher and shown considerably more year-to-year variation over the past decade than commuter and heavy rail.


Page last modified on November 7, 2014.
Federal Highway Administration | 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE | Washington, DC 20590 | 202-366-4000