There is a misconception that it is more dangerous driving in cities than in the country. While enjoying scenery and experiencing less traffic in rural areas is not as stressful, statistical data indicates there is a higher death rate on county roads.
City, or urban driving has it’s own dangers such as more traffic, traffic lights, and aggressive drivers. That alone would make you believe you are safer driving in rural areas.
It’s a believable presumption, but not true.
Although there are more traffic fatalities in rural areas, insurance companies charge higher premiums for living in the city than in sparsely populated rural areas.
NTSA’s much quoted FACT from their RURAL/URBAN COMPARISON is:
“In 2015, although 19% of the US population lived in rural areas, rural fatalities accounted for 49% of all traffic fatalities.”
A FEW CITY VS
One alarming fact is that 61% of rural drivers died at the scene of the crash, whereas 33% of urban drivers died at the scene.
WHAT MAKES DRIVING IN THE COUNTRY DANGEROUS
Posted speed limits are higher in rural area than in urban areas. Country road speed limits can be 55 mph and higher. Rural areas have less law enforcement presence so drivers are more apt to speed.
Whether it’s city or country, speeding causes vehicle crashes.
Rural roads can be only two lane, leaving little room for passing. These roads can be winding or hilly which hampers your ability to see other drivers on the road.
Roads outside the city are typically less maintained or repaired than city freeways. Rural roads rarely have adequate shoulders to pull off onto in an emergency.
DWI and DUI is a bigger problem on rural roadways. With less public transportation in the country, more people drink and drive.
Drunk drivers tend to believe there’s a lower risk of accident or being caught in rural areas, so they'll often take chances that city drivers might not.
Lack of Seat Belts
Statistics show less drivers wear seat belts when driving in rural areas. 50% of those killed in rural accidents were not wearing seat belts.
Emergency help is farther away
It can take more time for ambulances and paramedics to get to accidents in rural areas. There is also a chance that the closest hospital isn’t able to handle severe trauma.
STRATEGIES FOR DRIVING IN THE COUNTRY
Making yourself aware of the potential dangers of rural driving and having a game plan or strategy can make your trip much safer.
BE MINDFUL OF YOUR SPEED
Just because posted peed limits are higher in rural areas, doesn’t mean you have to travel that speed. Use the higher speed limit as a target, then assess the situation to determine if you are safely traveling the right speed limit.
Remember the leading cause of crashes is speeding.
BE PREPARED FOR ROAD CHANGES
Roads can change from paved to unpaved with very little warning and create difficulty maintaining vehicle traction. Rural shoulders are often gravel and driving onto them accidentally or on purpose can cause loss of vehicle control. If you drive onto a gravel shoulder by mistake, do not panic. Do not brake. Slowly easy off the accelerator and steer back onto the roadway.
USE CAUTION WHEN PASSING
Rural roads are often two lane and require passing slower vehicles. Make sure the roadway lanes are marked legal for passing. Give yourself plenty of space for safe passing. Never pass on hills or curves.
WATCH FOR HIDDEN DRIVEWAYS
With 19% of the population living in rural areas, people often live off highly traveled roadways. Their driveway may exit directly onto a high speed country road where you are traveling.
Hint: If you see a mailbox, it could be near a driveway so be alert.
BE ALERT FOR ANIMALS AND FARM VEHICLES
When you are driving in the country, farms may border the roadway. Those farms may have livestock and domestic animals living on them. Cows are skilled at finding a weak spot in fencing and making their way onto or near the roadway.
If you see a cow or any large animal grazing on the side of the roadway, reduce your speed. They are unpredictable and can dart in front of your vehicle. Look for tractors driving in rural areas. They are legal to drive on public roadways and farmers often travel from field to field on them.
Tractors travel at much slower speeds, creating a dangerous obstacle for faster moving traffic.
LOOK FOR SIGNS
Not only is it important to keep a head’s up for official signs like speed and caution signs, also be alert for unofficial signs. If you see skid marks on the roadway or a broken fence, this could indicate this is a dangerous area.
Knowing the challenges and strategies of rural driving will help prepare you for a safe, relaxing, and memorable drive in the country.
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