More than 50% of the 43,000 annual U.S. highway fatalities are related to poor roadway conditions, costing $217 billion a year. That was testimony researcher and safety economist Ted R. Miller gave the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing on improving transportation safety.

Miller says the cost of crashes involving deficient roadway conditions dwarf the costs of crashes involving alcohol, speeding, or failure to wear a safety belt. “Focusing as much on improving road safety conditions as on reducing impaired driving would save thousands of lives and billions of dollars each year,” he says.

Miller also outlined solutions to reduce highway fatalities such as brighter and more durable pavement markings, rumble strips to shoulders, mounting more guardrails or safety barriers and installing traffic signals and better signs with easier-to-read legends. More significant road improvements, he says, include installing breakaway poles, adding or widening shoulders, improving roadway alignment, replacing or widening narrow bridges, reducing pavement edges and abrupt drop offs, and clearing more roadside space.

Miller concluded his testimony by telling the committee that the upcoming highway and transit authorization bill provided “an important opportunity to make additional investments to “improve the safety built into roads and bridges.”