Peter Kissinger, president and CEO of the foundation, says the information could be used within the next two to three years to map the nation's safest, as well as deadliest corridors, enabling safety-conscious drivers to shop for "Five-Star Safety" roads just as they do for automobiles.
"You could get in a car, turn on the in-vehicle navigation and request not only the quickest way from point A to point B, but the safest way," Kissinger says.
Public interest in such a service is strong: A 2009 foundation survey of 2,141 drivers found that 73% would consider using the data to pick roads in unfamiliar areas.
An interactive website from the University of Minnesota's Center for Excellence in Rural Safety that allows drivers to plot fatal crashes on a map is very popular. SafeRoadMaps.org was founded in 2008 and received more than 10 million hits by mid-2010, says center director Lee Munnich.
"You can analyze where traffic deaths have occurred over the last several years anywhere in the country," Munnich says. The foundation is working with Illinois, Kentucky, New Mexico, Utah, Florida, Iowa, Michigan and New Jersey and hopes to add more states this year.
Data on deaths, injuries and safety features eventually could be used by state and local officials to promote the safety of their roads, Kissinger says.