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Rural Roads vs. City Streets: Which Are Safer? (2018 Update)

Last year, we examined the statistics that compare urban streets to rural roads in terms of car crashes and overall safety and wrote a blog about what we found.

New data was released after that post was published, so it's time to once again examine whether the perception that rural roads are safer than crowded urban streets is actually true.

Which type of road is deadlier?

The short answer: Rural roads are deadlier, as each year rural roads account for approximately 1,500 to 2,000 more fatalities than urban roads.

While the number of fatal accidents has moved closer to a 50-50 split between urban (45 percent) and rural areas (49 percent), those numbers are deceptive. When you analyze the number of fatal accidents based on the number of people who live in an area, you quickly realize that nearly half of all fatal accidents occur in an area where only 19 percent of the U.S. population lives. This means that there are higher per capita crash and fatality rates in rural areas, in addition to there being a higher overall number of fatalities.

Is there any good news?

Things aren't all bad for rural areas, though. While urban areas have reduced the number of traffic fatalities by 18 percent over the past decade, rural areas have done even better. Fatalities in rural areas have decreased by 28 percent in the past 10 years; while rural areas still outpace urban areas in terms of fatalities, the gap between them is now much narrower than a decade ago when there were routinely between 5,000 and 6,000 more fatalities on rural roads each year. This is part of a long-running trend, as these numbers have been getting lower since the late 1970s (when there were approximately 8,000 to 10,000 more fatalities on rural roads than on urban roads).

The other good news is that traffic fatalities have declined significantly on both rural and urban roads, although there is still a lot of work to be done to push the number of fatalities even closer to zero.

Want to learn more?

Check out our previous blog on this topic for more information about why rural roads are deadlier than urban streets.

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