Toll Road’s are Safer

New Data on Toll Road Safety

by Robert W. Poole Jr.
published by Reason Foundation in Surface Transportation Innovations, Issue No. 55, May 2008

Over the years I’ve heard a lot of anecdotal claims that toll roads are safer than non-toll roads. Skeptics should take such a broad claim with a few grains of salt, since toll roads are by definition limited-access road with separation between opposing lanes (like Interstates), and we already know that such roads are safer than ordinary roads.

But now the International Bridge, Tunnel, and Turnpike Association has crunched the numbers and come up with what appear to be fair and realistic comparisons. The research is summarized in the Winter 2008 issue of Tollways, in an article by their research director Jeff Campbell titled “Toll vs. Nontoll: Toll Facilities Are Safer.” (

Campbell surveyed a large number of U.S. toll roads, bridges, and tunnels, compiling data on fatalities and accidents per 100 million vehicle miles of travel, the standard metric. On fatality rates, for all U.S. roads, FHWA figures show 1.47 fatalities per 100 million VMT. For all toll facilities, the comparable figure is 0.50. But that is not the meaningful comparison, as noted previously. For all rural Interstates, the fatality rate is 1.21 and for urban Interstates it is 0.55. Since toll roads are a mix of urban and rural, some kind of weighted average of urban and rural Interstates is the best comparator, but Campbell does not give us that.

But Peter Samuel of does. Using FHWA data, he developed a weighted average for all three types of non-toll limited access roadways: urban Interstates, rural Interstates, and non-Interstate expressways. That “all-expressways” fatality rate is 0.80. That compares with Campbell’s figure of 0.52 for toll roads only (excluding bridges and tunnels). Thus, on an apples-vs.-apples basis, toll roads are 35% safer than non-toll roads. (see Toll Road News report).

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