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Rural Facts

Driver Risk Assessment Findings

Seasonal Risk An overwhelming 83 percent of Americans incorrectly consider winter to be "the most dangerous season to be driving on rural roadways." Only 8 percent believe sum­mer is the most dangerous time. Four percent found spring the most dangerous time, and four percent see fall as the most dangerous time. 

Rural Risk Many don't understand the greater risk they face on rural highways. For instance, 69 percent of Americans re­sponded that they felt safe on multi-lane freeways in urban areas, while 79 percent felt safe on two lane highways in rural areas. Thirty-eight percent responded that they feel relaxed on rural highways and just 19 percent feel relaxed on urban free­ways. Among rural residents, 69 percent felt relaxed on rural highways, versus just 13 percent who felt relaxed on urban freeways. 
This feeling of relaxation and safety seems to lead to a bit more risk taking on the more dangerous rural highways. For instance, Americans are more likely to feel safe eating, use a cell phone and drinking and driving on rural highways than they are on urban freeways. This is particularly true of rural residents. For instance, among rural residents, 44 percent said they feel safe using a cell phone on a rural highway versus 14 percent who feel safe using a cell phone on an urban freeway. 
The exception to this trend of Americans feeling more com­fortable engaging in risky driving behaviors on rural high­ways is speeding. About half of Americans feel safe speeding on urban freeways (47 percent), while a third feel safe speed­ing on rural highways. 
In an open-ended question, survey respondents who felt safer on rural highways than urban freeways were asked why they felt this way. The most common answer (51 percent) was that there were just fewer things on the road to worry about - less traffic, less congestion and less people. The second most com­mon answer (31 percent) was that the driver knew the area and felt comfortable in the area.

Rural Safety Facts

Key facts about rural transportation safety

More than half of the 37,261 fatal crashes in the United States occur on rural roads Two-thirds of fatal crashes in Minnesota occur on rural roads

  • Though 23 percent of Americans live in rural areas, 56 percent of highway deaths occur on roads considered rural.1
  • More than half of the 37,261 fatal crashes in the United States occur on rural roads.4
  • In 27 states, more than 75 percent of total roadway mileage is on roadways designated as rural. Only eight states have less than 50 percent of their total roadway miles classified as rural.5
  • The seat-belt use rate in urban areas is 84% as compared to 79% in rural areas.1
  • The fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled is 2.6 times higher in rural areas than in urban areas.1
  • Crash victims are five to seven times more likely to die if arrival to a hospital exceeds 30 minutes.2
  • The time between a crash and arrival at a hospital averages 36 minutes in urban areas and 53 minutes in rural areas.3
  • It takes more than twice as long for EMS personnel to arrive at a crash scene in a rural community, as compared to an urban community—19 minutes versus 7 minutes.3
  • In 2004, only 35 percent of rural passenger vehicle occupant fatalities were taken to a hospital. In comparison, 50 percent of urban reached a hospital and its potentially life-saving facilities.3
  • 57 percent of all alcohol-related fatalities involving passenger vehicles occur on rural roads.1

Taken from