More Traffic Fatalities Occur on Rural Roads

In October USA Today reported that several states are ramping up efforts to reduce traffic fatalities on rural roads. Statistics show that more Americans die on rural roads than urban roads.

Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) show that in 2008, 56 percent of the nation’s 37,261 traffic fatalities occurred on rural roads. Only about 23 percent of the population lives in rural areas.

“There are more crashes in urban areas, but fewer of them result in fatalities,” said Lee Munnich, director of the Center for Excellence in Rural Safety at the University of Minnesota.

Overall, U.S. traffic fatalities decreased last year. The economic recession and high gas prices likely contributed to the decline in fatalities. However, rural roads had less of a decline in fatalities compared to urban roads.

Of course, people typically drive faster on rural roads, and this is probably the main reason for the higher rate of fatalities. Additionally, rural roads are generally not as well engineered or maintained as urban roads. Other factors in the higher rate of fatalities include more drunken driving on rural roads, less use of seat belts on rural roads, and slower response times for emergency medical care on rural roads.

In predominantly rural Montana, for example, the average response time for emergency rescue is approximately 80 minutes, compared to 15 minutes in Massachusetts.

Several states are making efforts to reduce fatalities on rural roads. Some states are widening rural roads. In South Carolina, where 95 percent of traffic fatalities last year happened on rural roads (this is the highest rate in the nation), officials are retrofitting 1,600 miles of rural roads with rumble strips to alert drivers when they’re driving off the pavement. The South Carolina highway patrol has also created a drunk driving unit because approximately 80 percent of the state’s traffic fatalities involve alcohol. In Montana, officials are building crossing points for deer, elk, and bear to keep the animals off the roads. In Iowa, officials are using public information campaigns to encourage the use of seat belts in rural areas. The state is also adding center-line rumble strips to alert drivers that are crossing the center line into oncoming traffic. Officials in Missouri are also campaigning to increase seat belt use on rural roads and adding rumble strips to center lines and edges of rural roads.

In Georgia, 47 percent of the 1,493 traffic fatalities in 2008 occurred on rural roads. This is in stark contrast to the neighboring state of South Carolina, where 95 percent of fatalities occurred on rural roads.

As we move into the holiday season, it’s important to be especially careful while driving on both rural roads and urban roads. More intoxicated drivers will be on the roads, and defensive driving is necessary.

If you’ve been injured in an auto accident, contact a Georgia auto accident attorney as soon as possible. You may be entitled to recovery, but time is of the essence. You must act fast. Call MLN Law at 404-531-9700 to schedule a free consultation.