• Rural roads less safe than large metro areas
  • December 28, 2017
  • While many drivers may believe that these roads are not as dangerous due to their less dense population, highway fatality statistics show that fatal accidents are more likely to occur on rural roads than on urban or suburban roadways.

    An article published in the Weekend Sunday Edition discusses not only the fatal statistics that are often associated with rural highways but also the fact that these roads are often traveled as a necessary means not only by rural residents but by those who need to get through to connecting interstates.

    Rural road accident statistics

    While many drivers may think that rural roads are safer because there is less traffic and therefore fewer drivers to encounter, may be shocked to learn the actual accident statistics associated with rural roads.

    Accidents on rural roads are more likely to result in fatalities

    While an estimated 38,000 fatal traffic accidents occur in the U.S. each year, over 56 percent of those deaths occur due to accidents on rural roads. In some states, rural road fatalities run as high as of all fatal traffic accidents.

    There are more miles traffic is more on rural roads but less funding

    While there were over six million miles of traffic lanes on rural roads, there are only 2.4 million miles in urban and suburban areas, yet rural roads only received an average of $13 billion dollars in funding while suburban and urban roads received over $21 billion.

    Why rural roads result in more dangerous accidents

    Rural road accidents have many causes, which can often be associated with the more sparse traffic and lack of repair and maintenance. Some of the reasons rural road accidents are more likely to result in fatalities include:

    • Speeding - When driving on rural roads, drivers may travel at higher rates of speed due to the lack of traffic

    • Medical aid - The remote conditions of rural roads can cause victims of accidents to take longer to receive medical aid than those who may have an accident in more highly populated areas

    • Animal collisions - Driver's on rural roads are more likely to encounter animals that can lead to collisions, such as deer or elk

    • Fatigue - Rural roads are often used by long haul truckers and tourists who may be traveling for long hours on the road

    • Unsafe passing - Drivers become more impatient behind slower moving vehicles on rural roads and are more likely to engage in unsafe passing.

    • Poor road maintenance - Because rural roads are in less dense, smaller traffic areas, less highway funding is allocated to rural roads, which can go neglected for decades

    • Less safety - With fewer vehicles on the road, driver's on rural roads are more likely to be operating a vehicle without seatbelts

    • Outdated design - Many rural roads have a small separation between ongoing traffic, are more liable to have dangerous curves, and often lack a proper shoulder area

    • Impaired driving - Many of the rural road fatalities are linked to intoxicated driving, possibly because the roads are often less traveled

    • Hazardous conditions - Since rural roads are less traveled, they receive less maintenance in the winter and are poorly lit which leads to unsafe driving conditions

    What can be done to reduce rural road related fatalities

    Rural drivers are not taking these statistics lightly and have contacted their legislative bodies demanding that changes be made to the rural roads to lessen the risk of fatalities on these sparsely populated but often traveled roads. In response to their pleas, a few fixes have been made including adding rumble strips, adding signage to encourage safe passing and adding lanes to areas of the highways that are already broad enough to accompany the addition. Many residents say that these fixes are not enough and want more funding to be used to turn the most dangerous sections of the highways into four lanes. For Highway 6 alone, this would include 120 miles of road that highway officials say will present a challenge not only due to cost but also logistics. State officials hope that the continued improvements will help reduce the number of rural road related fatalities in the future.