While you might assume that busy city streets are likely to be the site of traffic accidents, rural roads may actually be more dangerous. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that even though just about 20% of the population lives in rural areas, almost 50% of fatalities that result from motor vehicle accidents happen on rural roads. While watching out for pedestrians and cyclists can be important in cities, California drivers should take precautions on rural roads as well.
Problems with rural roads
There are a number of reasons why fatalities are high in rural areas. One is the speed at which emergency services are able to respond, reflected in the fact that 41% of drivers in urban areas died en route to the hospital after a traffic accident in 2018 while 58% of drivers in rural areas did. Infrastructure is an issue as well. Rural roads are more likely to have elements that make crashes more likely, such as narrow shoulders and many curves. They are less likely to have elements that help prevent motor vehicle accidents, such as medians and good lighting. Steep slopes can also be a factor in the severity of accidents.
Traffic safety advocates say that neither educating drivers nor working with law enforcement to discourage dangerous behaviors like speeding are sufficient to reduce the disparity in risks. Instead, federal, state and local governments need to invest in improved road safety in rural areas. Some states are now working to identify areas where crashes are more common and take steps to remove hazards and improve safety features.
Traffic safety is dependent upon a number of factors, and driver behavior is just one of them. Law enforcement, government at every level, road safety advocates and drivers themselves can work together toward a reduction in accidents and fatalities.