GHSA study points to higher road safety risks on rural roads

Road safety - Car Crash

The research report showed that crashes on rural roads are disproportionately deadly.

Though many of us tend to think of road safety risks as being highest in urban areas where there is the most traffic, a new Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) report has shown that urban crashes aren’t nearly as deadly as those on rural roads.

The GHSA study was funded by State Farm and examined the issue of fatalities on rural roads.

The road safety risks are notably higher on rural roads than most Americans think. Though only 19 percent of the US population resides in rural areas, almost half of all fatal crashes occur on rural roads, said the GHSA study. The researchers examined the problem in order to determine who is behind the wheel when these fatal crashes are most likely to occur and what behaviors are making them so deadly.

The outcome of the study, which was published in a report under the title “America’s Rural Roads: Beautiful and Deadly”, included almost three dozen new recommendations for the State Highway Safety Offices (SHSOs) and their partners to help reduce the risks associated with the use of rural roads. It was published at a time during which traffic fatalities have been skyrocketing across the country. This is particularly true of crashes occurring on rural roads.

Road safety - rural road - scenic

Road safety is falling, and the data shows that it is particularly hazardous in rural areas.

The five most recent data years – 2016 through 2020 – recorded that 85,002 people died in rural road crashes. In that last year, the risk of dying on a rural road crash was 62 percent higher than it was on urban roads for trips of comparable lengths. Before the pandemic, the number of rural road deaths had been falling, but they started climbing notably in 2020 in a trend that took place nationwide.

Preliminary data from 2021, released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) showed that deaths on all road types – including collector/local, arterial, and interstate – only increased further.

There were several factors identified in the study as contributors to the high road safety risk for deadly crashes on rural roads. These included a simpler overall roadway structure, lack of safety resources, weak emergency medical services, and to a considerable extent, riskier driver behaviors. In that last category, the largest factors were identified as impaired driving, failure to wear a seatbelt, distraction and speeding.

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