Study Finds Rural States Have Higher Traffic Fatality Rates Than Urban Areas

Usually, country roads are considered to be safer than city streets, mostly because when driving on rural roads, drivers don't have to deal with traffic jams and a wide range of unpredictable situations that are typical of urban areas. But, a new study shows that drivers living in rural areas are actually at a higher risk of getting killed in a car accident than those living in predominantly urban states.

According to a recent study from the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute(UMTRI), rural states are deadlier for drivers than their urban counterparts. Researchers Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle analyzed motor vehicle deaths statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for 2013, which is the latest year available, and discovered that traffic fatality rates are highest in the least crowded states, which is definitely a surprising finding.

Roads in Rural Areas Are not Necessarily Safer

The report states that states in the South and the Southwest have the highest motor vehicle death rates. Montana tops the list with a traffic fatality rate of 22.6 per 100,000 people, followed by Mississippi and North Dakota with 20.5 fatalities each per 100,000 residents. One thing that all three states have in common is that the majority of their roads are in rural areas, and those types of roads have always been regarded as safer than streets in urban areas, which is why these high fatality rates are so unexpected.

Densely Populated States Safer

On the other hand, more densely populated states, mainly situated along the Pacific coast and the northern Atlantic coast, have proven to be a lot safer for drivers. Researchers found that Washington, D.C. has the least traffic fatalities, with a rate of 3.1 per 100,000 residents, followed by Massachusetts (4.9 deaths), New Jersey and New York at 6.1 each, and with Rhode Island rounding out the top five with 6.2 deaths per 100,000 residents.

Speeding and Alcohol Among the Leading Causes

These numbers suggest that driving on congested streets situated in urban areas is not as dangerous as previously thought. Researchers note several factors that probably contribute to the higher fatality rates in rural areas. They say that speed is likely one of the leading factors, with the states with the highest motor vehicle death rates also having the highest posted speed limits, going up to 80 mph.

Furthermore, alcohol consumption and driver aggression are noted as contributing factors, since these variables differ greatly between rural and urban regions.

In summation, statistics show that the safest states for motorists are surprisingly the ones with roads that are predominantly situated in urban areas and have high levels of congestion, whereas the states with a high percentage of rural roads tend to be more dangerous for drivers. These findings should serve as a reminder to all drivers to be extra careful while traveling along the open road and keep in mind that those are the types of roads where an accident is much more likely to happen.

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