In 2003, London put a new program in place imposing congestion charges. These congestion charges imposed a fee for motorists who drive within the central district in the city at certain times. The theory was that the costs of traffic are an externality and imposing a charge for driving on the roads would help motorists to internalize that cost. In selling this plan, advocates indicated that congestion would be reduced, travel speed would be increased, and traffic accident death rates will fall dramatically.
Now, more than a decade later, the data is out and it shows that there indeed have been significantly fewer fatalities since the imposition of congestion charges. The outcome could raise questions regarding whether congestion charges could make sense in U.S. locations like Los Angeles, Newport Beach, Santa Ana, and Riverside to help with traffic problems and to help make the roads safer. While a personal injury lawyer knows that a congestion charge would be a dramatic shift in policy, it could be worth considering if it helps to save lives.
Could Charging Drivers for Road Use Help to Make Roads Safer?
Three economists from the Management School at Lancaster University took a close look at whether congestion charges had been successful at reducing crash frequencies. The results were startling.
According to the report, there were around 400 fewer traffic collisions in zones where charges were put into place, compared with ongoing trends. This translates to around a 38 to 40 percent decline in traffic collisions. The reduction in crashes was many times greater than the reduction in overall vehicle miles traveled in the congestion zones.
When it comes to serious or even fatal crashes, there has also been a significant reduction in collisions. Since the congestion charges were imposed, there have been some 46 fewer serious crashes and between four and five fewer deaths per year.
In spillover zones, which are areas where cars may end up being diverted to avoid congestion pricing, there was no corresponding increase in collisions due to the added traffic. The crash rate was still between 13 and 14 percent less than in control cities. This undermined concerns that the rerouting of traffic would simply move the danger zone to an area outside of the city center.
Bicycles, taxis and motorcycles were not charged for use in congestion zones. Even though there was no added cost for these vehicles, they still experienced fewer crashes than similar vehicles in control cities. The crash rates for bicycles, taxis, and motorcycles was 12 percent lower than the crash rate for similar vehicles inside control cities.
There were also concerns that traffic would be increased in the congestion areas during times when the charge is not in effect. This could simply result in an increase in accidents at times when there is no charge to be on the roads. However, this did not pan out either. The crash rates in the congestion zones during the hours when no charges are imposed were significantly less than in control cities. The improvement in overall safety in the congestion areas thus occurred all the time, even when there was no charge being imposed.
Clearly, imposing a cost for using congested roads has caused a change in behavior that has made the roads safer. It may be something that U.S. cities should consider to improve their own road conditions.
If you've been injured, or you lost a loved one, contact the Law Offices of Daniel C. Carlton at (949) 757-0707 to speak with a personal injury attorney in Newport Beach, CA. Serving Los Angeles, Newport Beach, Santa Ana, Riverside and surrounding areas.