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Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-04-142
Date: December 2005

Enhanced Night Visibility Series, Volume XI: Phase II—Cost-Benefit Analysis

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CHAPTER 5—FINDINGS AND CONCLUSIONS

The procedures described above, applied to the data described above, generate an estimate of the cost of each VES and pavement marking system. They also generate an estimate of total annual crash costs and the percentage of crash costs most likely to benefit from enhanced night visibility.

STEADY-STATE COSTS AT 100 PERCENT IMPLEMENTATION

The cost of each innovative technology, and of the possible combinations of technology, is estimated in two different ways. The first set of results, displayed in table 14 through table 16, forecasts the incremental annual costs of each technology in the steady state when 100 percent implementation is reached; the forecasts are without regard to the costs that accrued in getting to that point. Here the incremental costs refer to the excess above and beyond the costs of the benchmark HLB technology with nonfluorescent pavement markings. The second set of results, displayed in table 20 through table 22, forecasts the costs, discounted to present value, over the course of an assumed 20 year implementation.

Steady-State Findings

Table 14 gives an estimation of the initial incremental cost of each VES per vehicle; table 15 does the same for each pavement marking system. The tables also show what the total annualized incremental cost of each system would be in the year 2020, if 100 percent implementation were achieved by that time. These costs are given in year 2003 U.S. dollars. They are incremental costs, that is, only those costs above and beyond the cost of HLB headlamps or nonfluorescent paint, which are used as benchmarks. For this reason the incremental cost of HLB, and of any system that costs as much as HLB does, is zero by definition; the same applies for nonfluorescent paint.

Table 14. Incremental cost of VESs using HLB benchmark.
VES Initial Incremental Cost
per Vehicle
(in 2003 dollars)
Annualized Incremental Cost
at 100% Implementation
(in billions of 2003 dollars)
HLB 0 0.00
HID 100 4.28
Hybrid UV–A + HLB 2,600 111
Three UV–A + HLB 2,600 111
Five UV–A + HLB 2,600 111
Hybrid UV–A + HID 2,700 116
Three UV–A + HID 2,700 116
Five UV–A + HID 2,700 116
HOH 100 4.28
HHB 0 0.00
HLB–LP 0 0.00
IR–TIS 2,250 85.6


Table 15. Incremental cost of pavement marking systems with nonfluorescent paint baseline.
Pavement Marking System Initial Incremental
Cost per Mile
(in 2003 dollars)
Annualized Incremental Cost
at 100% Implementation
(in billions of 2003 dollars)
Fluorescent Paint 1,263 15.9
Fluorescent Thermoplastic 5,010 16.4
Nonfluorescent Polyurea Binder 5,280 9.88
Nonfluorescent Paint 0 0.00

Table 16 shows the annual incremental cost of each combination of one VES with one pavement marking system. In other words, the dollar value entered in the “five UV–A + HLB” row and the “fluorescent thermoplastic” column is the sum of the total annualized incremental cost of the five UV–A + HLB system plus the total annualized incremental cost of the fluorescent thermoplastic system.

Table 16. Annualized incremental costs of each possible VES/pavement marking combination.
Fluorescent
Paint
Fluorescent Thermoplastic Nonfluorescent Polyurea Nonfluorescent Paint
HLB 15.9 16.4 9.88 0.00
HID 20.2 20.7 14.2 4.28
Hybrid UV–A + HLB 127 128 121 111
Three UV–A + HLB 127 128 121 111
Five UV–A + HLB 127 128 121 111
Hybrid UV–A + HID 132 132 125 116
Three UV–A + HID 132 132 125 116
Five UV–A + HID 132 132 125 116
HOH 20.2 20.7 14.2 4.28
HHB 15.9 16.4 9.88 0.00
HLB–LP 15.9 16.4 9.88 0.00
IR–TIS 102 102 95.5 85.6

Break-Even Crash Reduction at 100 Percent Implementation

Table 17 shows the estimated annual cost of crashes in each of five critical event categories (compare figure 7 and figure 13). This presentation is intended to permit comparison with the similar tabulation used by Nitzburg et al.(1) The chief differences are that the table represents average crash costs in 1999-2001 rather than in the 1980s, and the crash costs are categorized by critical event and light condition rather than by crash geometry.

Table 17. Estimated average annual crash costs 1999 to 2001 by critical event and light condition.
LIGHT CONDITION TOTAL
Day/Lighted Dark Dawn/Dusk
CRITICAL EVENT Other Event 165,914 26,802 8,043 200,760
Roadway Departure 35,909 17,567 3,423 56,899
Pedestrian 183 209 9 401
Cyclist 130 6 4 140
Animal or Object 2,384 2,230 456 5,070
TOTAL 204,520 46,814 11,936 263,270

Table 18 shows what percentage reduction in the costs of total unlighted nighttime crashes each VES/pavement marking combination would need to achieve to create annual benefits (i.e., cost savings) that match its estimated annual incremental cost.

Table 18. Break-even reduction in unlighted night crash costs for VES/pavement marking combinations.
Fluorescent
Paint
(%)
Fluorescent
Thermoplastic
(%)
Nonfluorescent
Polyurea
(%)
Nonfluorescent
Paint
(%)
HLB 34 35 21 0
HID 43 44 30 9
Hybrid UV–A + HLB >100 >100 >100 >100
Three UV–A + HLB >100 >100 >100 >100
Five UV–A + HLB >100 >100 >100 >100
Hybrid UV–A + HID >100 >100 >100 >100
Three UV–A + HID >100 >100 >100 >100
Five UV–A + HID >100 >100 >100 >100
HOH 43 44 30 9
HHB 34 35 21 0
HLB–LP 34 35 21 0
IR–TIS >100 >100 >100 >100

Table 19 shows what percentage reduction in the costs of total unlighted nighttime, dawn, and dusk crashes each VES/pavement marking combination would need to create annual benefits (i.e., cost savings) that match its estimated annual incremental cost.

Table 19. Break-even percentage reduction in unlighted night, dawn, and dusk crash costs for VES/pavement marking combinations.
Fluorescent
Paint
(%)
Fluorescent
Thermoplastic
(%)
Nonfluorescent
Polyurea
(%)
Nonfluorescent
Paint
(%)
HLB 27 28 17 0
HID 34 35 24 7
Hybrid UV–A + HLB >100 >100 >100 >100
Three UV–A + HLB >100 >100 >100 >100
Five UV–A + HLB >100 >100 >100 >100
Hybrid UV–A + HID >100 >100 >100 >100
Three UV–A + HID >100 >100 >100 >100
Five UV–A + HID >100 >100 >100 >100
HOH 34 35 24 7
HHB 27 28 17 0
HLB–LP 27 28 17 0
IR–TIS >100 >100 >100 >100

Steady-State Interpretation

Because the only combination of pavement marking material and VES that shows systematic improvements in sight distance for drivers of different age groups (see ENV Volumes III through VI) is the five UV–A lamps with halogen low-beam lamps plus the nonfluorescent pavement markings, only these systems are likely to yield positive crash cost reduction. When the sight distance findings are broken down by the type of object to be detected and related to the corresponding critical event category, three systems may be expected to create pedestrian crash cost savings: three UV–A + HLB, five UV–A + HLB, and IR–TIS; these three systems may also be expected to create cyclist crash cost savings. Lane departure crash cost savings may be expected for the five UV–A + HLB, hybrid UV–A + HLB, three UV–A + HLB, and IR–TIS.

It should be evident that if the ENV technologies affect night, dusk, and dawn crashes rather than night crashes alone, then the potential crash cost savings of each combination would be about 25 percent larger (see figure 7 and compare table 18 and table 19). The relative rankings of the systems remain unchanged.

VALUE OF COSTS IN TRANSITION FROM 0 TO 100 PERCENT IMPLEMENTATION

Present Discounted Value Findings

The results in the tables that follow show costs discounted to the beginning of the first year of implementation at an interest rate of 4 percent per annum. Implementation is assumed to occur at the rate of 5 percent per year (i.e., an additional 5 percent of vehicles and 5 percent of highway miles are equipped each year) until full implementation is achieved at the end of 20 years.

Table 20 shows the incremental present discounted cost of each VES with conventional pavement markings. The table covers a 20-year period on unlighted highways when the system is introduced to the vehicle fleet, and then, in steps of 5 percent per year until 100 percent implementation is achieved; table 21 does the same for pavement marking systems. These costs are given in year 2003 U.S. dollars. They are incremental costs (i.e., only those costs above and beyond the cost of HLB headlamps or nonfluorescent paint) that are used as benchmarks. For this reason, the incremental cost of HLB (and any system that costs as much as HLB does) is zero by definition; the same goes for nonfluorescent paint.

Table 20. Incremental cost of VESs using HLB and conventional paint markings benchmark.
VES Incremental Present Discounted Cost over 20-Year Horizon
(in billions of 2003 dollars)
HLB 0.00
HID 23.9
Hybrid UV–A + HLB 622
Three UV–A + HLB 622
Five UV–A + HLB 622
Hybrid UV–A + HID 646
Three UV–A + HID 646
Five UV–A + HID 646
HOH 23.9
HHB 0.00
HLB–LP 0.00
IR–TIS 479


Table 21. Incremental cost of pavement marking systems using nonfluorescent paint benchmark.
Pavement Marking System Incremental Present Discounted Cost over 20-Year Horizon
(in billions of 2003 dollars)
Fluorescent Paint 101
Fluorescent Thermoplastic 104
Nonfluorescent Polyurea Binder 62.6
Nonfluorescent Paint 0.00

Table 22 shows the present discounted cost of each combination of one VES with one pavement marking system. In other words, the dollar value entered in the “five UV–A + HLB” row and the “Fluorescent Thermoplastic” column is the sum of the incremental present discounted cost of the five UV–A + HLB system plus the incremental present discounted cost of the fluorescent thermoplastic system. Again, the assumption that the systems would penetrate the vehicle fleet and the unlighted highways in steps of 5 percent per year underlies the computations.



Table 22. Incremental present discounted costs of possible VES/pavement marking combinations over 20-year implementation.
Fluorescent
Paint
Fluorescent Thermoplastic Nonfluorescent Polyurea Nonfluorescent Paint
HLB 101 104 62.6 0.00
HID 125 128 86.6 23.9
Hybrid UV–A + HLB 723 726 685 622
Three UV–A + HLB 723 726 685 622
Five UV–A + HLB 723 726 685 622
Hybrid UV–A + HID 747 750 709 646
Three UV–A + HID 747 750 709 646
Five UV–A + HID 747 750 709 646
HOH 125 128 86.6 23.9
HHB 101 104 62.6 0.00
HLB–LP 101 104 62.6 0.00
IR–TIS 580 583 541 479

Present Discounted Value Interpretation

The percentage of effect on crash costs necessary to break even would tend to be slightly larger in the present discounted-value computation than in the steady-state computation for those technology combinations that include both UV–A headlamps and fluorescent pavement markings. (Put differently, any benefit-cost ratios that one might calculate would tend to be slightly smaller.) This slight difference results from the effect that the UV–A headlamps and the fluorescent pavement marking systems create when used in combination. At a constant implementation rate of 5 percent per year, the cost of these systems in combination grows at 5 percent per year also, while their positive effect on crashes (if any) grows very slowly at first.

COMPARISON WITH PREVIOUS RESEARCH FINDINGS

The cost-benefit analysis in this report, adhering closely to the cost-benefit framework in the FHWA report A Safety Evaluation of UVA Vehicle Headlights,(1) permits a relatively straightforward comparison of the cost and benefit estimates produced for this study with the earlier estimates that Nitzburg et al. produced in their steady-state analysis. The FHWA report, based on engineering estimates and a very limited body of relevant literature, unavoidably lacked precision, and it is instructive to see how far the Smart Road tests and the reported equipment costs corroborate its estimates.

The reports differ on a couple of methodological points. First, Nitzburg et al. used the GES to tabulate estimated crash costs from a hybrid CDS/NASS file that they created to correct some shortcomings in the personal injury data that NASS provided.(1) The current report uses GES to estimate crash costs from a set of NASS files. Second, Nitzburg et al. tabulated the crash cost estimates in six categories defined by crash geometry.(1) The current report tabulates the crash cost estimates in five categories defined by critical event. The category definitions may not be important, but they may lead to different judgments about which nighttime crashes appear to be relevant, that is, have a potential for reduction.

A glance at table 17 shows that the current study’s estimate of total crash costs in unlighted conditions (dark, dawn, and dusk), $58.75 billion at 2003 prices, is reasonably close to the Nitzburg et al. estimate of $53.2 billion at 1995 prices.(1) Table 16, on the other hand, shows that the current study’s estimate of the costs of the ultraviolet and fluorescent technologies, $111 to $116 billion for the UV–A headlights and some $16 billion for the fluorescent markings, is two orders of magnitude greater than the Nitzburg et al. estimate of $1.3 billion for the UV–A headlights and $0.23 billion for the fluorescent markings.(1) The ENV study’s estimates of the cost of HID headlamps and IR imaging systems have no counterpart in Nitzburg’s FHWA report.

DIRECTIONS FOR FUTURE RESEARCH

More Detailed Breakdown of Vehicle Miles Traveled

Traffic counts that indicate what fraction of vehicle miles traveled take place in clear, rainy, snowy, and foggy atmospheric conditions would permit a variant approach to the benefit calculation.

The analysis in this study postulates that the motoring public would realize the benefits of enhanced night visibility in the form of reduced crash costs. It is conceivable that some motorists would attempt to convert crash-cost savings into time-cost savings by driving faster. Any estimate of the cost savings based on constant traffic volume and speed must be considered a lower bound on the true benefits that might occur if motorists could capture additional net savings by trading safety for time.

Under the extreme assumption that motorists benefiting from one of the new night visibility technologies would choose to speed up so much that the risk of a crash remained exactly the same as before, the benefits of the new technology would accrue entirely in the form of travel-time savings. Estimating time savings would require an estimate of the vehicle miles traveled in each of the combinations of light conditions and weather (and, possibly, driver age and gender) by which the crash database can be categorized. Traffic counts that break down traffic volume on a road by the light conditions, weather, and driver age would minimize the number of assumptions and the margin of error in such a calculation.

More Detailed Inventory of Delineators

Some information about the cost of fluorescent delineator posts was collected while completing the cost-benefit analysis; however, the effect of fluorescent materials on the distance at which a delineator post might be detected by a driver was not measured. Therefore, the cost-benefit analysis does not include an assessment of the potential effect of fluorescent delineator posts on future crash costs.

In principle, if delineator post detection distances were obtained from a future study and if information on the distribution of delineator posts on the Nation’s highways were collected, it would be possible to include the effect of fluorescent delineator posts in a study such as this one.

 

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