PHOENIX — Rural highways in Arizona have one of the highest rates of fatalities in the nation, a report released Tuesday claimed.
The report from TRIP, a national transportation research group, said Arizona’s rate of 2.7 fatalities per 100 million miles of travel on the state’s rural roadways was the seventh-highest in the country.
That accident rate was also two-and-a-half times higher than the fatality rate on other roads in the state.
The report also said 8 percent of the state’s 5,824 miles of rural highways were in poor condition, while a further 20 percent were in mediocre condition.
“Rural roads are far too often overlooked,” Michelle Donati, the communications director for Triple-A of Arizona, said in a release. “With fatality rates rising, repairing and maintaining the nation’s roads must be a top priority for legislators.”
Arizona Farm Bureau President Kevin Rogers agreed with Donati, saying rural highways play a big part in getting crops and livestock to market.
“It’s time to make these roads and bridges a priority,” he said in the same release. “These projects have been on the back burner too long and it’s time to put them on the top of the list.”
But those repairs must be paid for. TRIP spokesman Rocky Moretti said the key element was finding cost-effective solutions that led to safer travel.
“Things like adding rumble strips, paving shoulders, adding lane markings, having good signage,” he said. “These have a significant impact on improving safety.”
Moretti also said it was important lawmakers not to let funding for rural highways fall by the wayside.
“The challenge there is to continue to make sure that the investment is made in a timely fashion,” he said. “If you don’t make the repairs when they’re needed, we know that $1 of deferred maintenance today costs $4 to $5 in the future.”
KTAR’s Jeremy Foster contributed to this report.