Rural roads more dangerous than urban roads

Rural Roads More Dangerous Than Urban Roads

When thinking of rural or country areas, most people imagine a laid back, slower lifestyle but, while that stereotype might work for the local country diner, it doesn’t hold true for rural roads. The latest data is out from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) for the 2013 calendar year and it shows that, just like in years past, more people die in in motor vehicle crashes in rural areas than urban areas.

While most people may think that interstate highways are the most dangerous type of road, it’s actually rural roads where the majority of fatal crashes happen.


Type of road

Number of fatal crashes

Number of deaths








According to the 2013 American Community Survey from the U.S. Census Bureau, an estimated 19 percent of the U.S. population lived in rural areas. However, rural fatalities accounted for 54 percent of all traffic fatalities in 2013.

Why so many deaths in such sparsely populated areas? There are several factors that contribute to the high death toll on rural roads:


Most rural roads are generally two-lane, narrow roads. In the east and far west, they tend to be hilly, winding roads with narrow shoulders that limit a driver’s view ahead and give the driver very limited room to escape in case of a hazard on the road.


The combination of those hilly, winding roads and high speed can be deadly.  Thirty percent of those killed in rural crashes were speeding at the time of the crash. Speeding drivers may not be able to maintain control of the vehicle in a curve or stop in time if they encounter an object or other vehicle in the road. In rural fatal crashes, 69 percent of drivers involved were on roadways where the posted speed limit was 55 mph or higher.


Of all the alcohol involved fatal crashes in 2013, 54 percent occurred in rural areas.

Seat belts

Fifty-one percent of all rural passenger vehicle occupants who were killed in traffic crashes weren’t wearing a seat belt. The numbers go even higher depending on the type of vehicle driven;

  • In light trucks, 60 percent of rural fatalities weren’t wearing a seat belt.
  • In pickup trucks, 64 percent of rural fatalities weren’t wearing a seat belt.
  • In SUV’s 58 percent of rural fatalities weren’t wearing a seat belt.
  • Sixty-nine percent of rural passenger vehicle occupants killed in roll-over crashes weren’t wearing a seat belt.

When driving in rural areas, drivers should be aware that rural roads can be deadlier than urban interstates and they should gauge their speed by road conditions – not the speed limit and always wear a seat belt.

For more information, read: Traffic Safety Facts – Rural/Urban Comparison