Online Tool Highlights Importance of Road Safety

Researchers in the University of Minnesota's Center for Excellence in Rural Safety (CERS) have mapped out driving fatalities in the nation with details on each death, so now you can see the "dead man's curve" on your commute or the "devil's triangle" in your backyard.

"When drivers type in their most common routes, they're shocked how much blood is being shed on it," said Tom Horan, research director for CERS. "When it's the route you or your loved ones use, the need to buckle up, slow down and avoid distractions and drinking suddenly becomes much more personal and urgent."

Enter your address at www.saferoadmaps.org and you will see a map or satellite image of all of the road fatalities that have occurred in the area. Plus, users have the ability to narrow down their search to see the age of the driver, whether speeding or drinking was a factor, and if the driver was wearing a seatbelt.

One of the most important aspects of the new tool also illustrates which life-saving public policies, such as strong seat belt laws, are in the chosen area, the researchers said.

"This tool sheds light on the importance of strong public policy that helps save lives in states across the nation," said Lee Munnich, director of CERS in the university's Humphrey Institute for Public Affiars. "When you can visually see how many lives can be saved, it really changes how the public and policy makers see our roads."

CERS officials hope the tool will educate the public about road fatalities, especially those that live in rural areas. U.S. Census figures show that 21 percent of Americans live in rural areas and the Federal Highway Administration has found that 57 percent of highway deaths happen on rural roads, the researchers said.

"We must take aggressive action to reduce needless deaths on our nation's roadways and saferoadmaps.org will give citizens and policymakers the information they need to improve travel safety," said U.S. Rep. James Oberstar, chair of the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. "I applaud the Center for Excellence in Rural Safety for their leadership in developing tools that can help us all in our quest to improve the safety of our nation's roadways."

The online tool will be useful to a wide range of drivers, from rural to urban drivers as well as drivers education teachers, parents and policy makers. It also will serve as an important illustration for teaching new drivers the importance of safety and give veteran drivers an opportunity to explore their most common routes and make sensible adjustments, the researchers said.

"By mapping out these fatalities, we can visually see what a large problem we have in our country," Munnich said. "It is time to start working towards prevention and each one of these dots on the map represents that."

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