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Arizona saw more than 120,000 crashes in 2021, so what are the potential solutions?

The SAFE system may be a possibility, but it could slow down our travel times.

ARIZONA, USA — In 2021 there were 121,353 crashes and 1,180 people died on Arizona roadways, according to the Arizona Department of Transportation. 

Thousands of families had to deal with the fallout both physically and fiscally.

“We have a ways to go. The numbers have been trending in the wrong direction,” Brendan Russo, Associate Professor of Civil Engineering at NAU said. “It’s tough to pinpoint one thing.”

The numbers show everything from congested roadways and rapidly merging interchanges to even our lights, which can lead to crashes.

So what are the potential solutions?

“One recent concept that is starting to be applied is the SAFE system approach," Russo said.

The concept was first widely used in Sweden in 1990. Since that point, Sweden's fatal car wrecks have decreased by 67 percent.

The idea behind the system is simple. People mess up, so let’s minimize the potential consequences.

“Things like lowering speed, separating vulnerable road users away from motorized traffic,” Russo said

The classic example of the "Safe System" is trading four light intersections with roundabouts.

A traditional four-light intersection has 32 potential conflict points, including multiple spots for high-impact crashes. 

However, a roundabout has just eight conflict points.

The plan, by design, slows people down. It means drivers would have to deal with lower speeds, more medians, and sometimes fewer lanes.

The Arizona highway system also has design questions as well.

The “Mini-Stack,” where Interstate 10, State Route 51, and Loop 202 all meet, has, for years, had the most crashes.

The interchange often requires drivers to cross multiple lanes of traffic to get to the highway of their choice.

The Maricopa Association of governments had allocated $250 million to study and improve the Mini-Stack.

But the plan to fund those changes relies on extending a half-cent sales tax—a proposal vetoed by Governor Doug Ducey this summer.

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