Investment in roads and traffic safety: linked to economic development? A European comparison

Environ Sci Pollut Res Int. 2022 Aug 22;1-23. doi: 10.1007/s11356-022-22567-y. Online ahead of print.

Abstract

This study analyzes how economic resources invested in roads may affect mortality, depending on the level of economic development of a country. To this end, 23 European countries were classified into two groups-high-income countries and low-income countries-according to their average Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita over the period 1998-2016. The economic resources are considered through the investment in construction and the maintenance expenditure. Further variables are included to control for several factors related to the infrastructure, socioeconomics, legislation, and meteorology. Fixed-effects panel data models were built separately for the interurban road network of each group of countries. These models also capture the international inequalities within each group and the country-specific national trend for the study period. The main results indicate a reduction effect on the fatality rate of road maintenance expenditure (in both groups), and of the investment in construction (in the low-income countries). Other variables-such as proportion of motorways, motorization rate, unemployment rate, GDP per capita, alcohol consumption, Demerit Point System, and mean annual precipitation-showed statistically significant results as well. Finally, the country-specific fixed effects and the country-specific trend were mapped geographically, to better reflect national conditions for achieving lower fatality rates in the high-income countries, and greater progress in reducing fatalities in the low-income countries. In the end, this study provides evidence to policy-makers that can help to achieve a safer and more sustainable transport system, namely, how to tackle an ongoing major problem-traffic-related deaths-when attending and allocating the economic resources that road infrastructure needs.

Keywords: Investment in roads; Road maintenance expenditure; Road safety; Sustainable transportation; Transport policy.