The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, in collaboration with the Iowa and Michigan Departments of Transportation, has developed a new method for mapping the relative risk of rural roads in the U.S.

The stakeholders in the effort hope the initiative will help save thousands of lives, as 60% of all U.S. traffic fatalities occur on rural roads.

AAA said the new tool, the United States Road Assessment Program (USRAP), should allow highway agencies to periodically conduct risk assessments of road segments using available crash data to identify potential problems, benchmark progress and guide strategic investments in highway infrastructure. The group also noted that similar “risk mapping” tools already exist throughout much of Europe and Australia.

“This is invaluable for state, county and local engineers across the country looking to maximize the safety benefits from their limited resources,” said Tony Giancola, executive director of the National Assn. of County Engineers.

According to Peter Kissinger, president & CEO of the AAA Foundation, the risk of being killed in a rural crash is two-and-a-half times greater than that of crashes in urban and suburban areas. He said USRAP aims to create risk maps to strategically allocate safety resources across the country that will lead to fewer serious crashes and fatalities.