Friday, October 16, 2009

More fatalities on rural roads

The Center for Excellence in Rural Safety at the University of Minnesota released a report indicating that more motorists die on rural roads, reports USA Today. While more crashes occur in urban areas, these urban collisions are far less likely to be fatal.

Nationwide, nearly six out of ten traffic fatalities occur on rural roads. In four states--Maine, Montana, New Hampshire, and South Carolina--the share of rural traffic fatalities exceeds 90 percent.

Poor road engineering and less traffic control in rural areas contribute to an increased incidence of traffic fatalities. Additionally, people drive faster on country roads, are more likely to drive under the influence, and wear safety belts less frequently. Slower emergency response time exacerbates the problem:
In Montana, the average response time for emergency medical rescue is about 80 minutes, compared with about 15 minutes in Massachusetts, says Jim Lynch, director of the Montana Department of Transportation.
There is some good news. Traffic fatalities are on the decline, even in rural areas, and many states are responding to the problem. Efforts include installing rumble strips and reflectors, creating public campaigns that encourage safe driving habits, and building wildlife "overcrosses" and "undercrosses" to keep deer, elk, and bear off rural roads.

Traveling soon? The University of Minnesota’s Center for Excellence in Rural Safety website,, allows users to identify "hot zones," locations across the nation, both urban and rural, where the most traffic fatalities occur. New York Times blogger, Tanya Mohn, used the program before her recent apple-picking trip, choosing to travel on Interstate 87 rather than Route 9, which had far more fatal crashes.


CityMouse said...

This is interesting and seems to say a lot about rurality. First - access to law enforcement/medical. Perhaps if these roads were better patrolled, people wouldn't speed, drive drunk, etc. And, if it takes a certain amount of time to get to the nearest hospital in a rural area, that may also increase the number of people dying from crashes. Additionally, the lack of infrastructure and services to fix roads that might be cracked, missing center land dividers, etc, shows the general absence of resources and monetary/budgetary concern for the roads. Finally, in rural areas there may be a greater need to drive, in general. In urban centers a person can take public transportation or walk as an alternative. Circumstances may necessitate driving in rural areas.

Anonymous said...

This is an interesting and excellent post. I have a few observations simply from driving way too much in way too many places. Speed limits vary greatly from state to state. Out in some western states, the interstate speed limit is 75, while for comprable road conditions back east (ie, fairly straight, very unfrequently traveled) the speed limit is generally 65 and only 70 on rare occasions. Given that the state sets speed limits, it's not too big a generalization to guess that maybe more libertarian/rural leaning states can see speed limits as more government interference (much like Montanans and seatbelt laws : Secondly, drinking and go hand in hand more often in rural areas. For instance, South Carolina has one of the highest lake house ownership rates in the country. It is almost a cultural routine to kick off work Friday and head down to the lake to engage in any combination of leisure activity and drinking. South Carolina's alcohol-related traffic fatality is consistently twice the national average ( many of these wrecks are caused by drivers returning or going to their lakehouse while drinking.