Where you drive affects the risks you face.
A total of 32,719 people died in motor vehicle crashes in 2013. Since 1999, there has been a general downward trend in the proportion of crash deaths in rural areas, with the proportion declining from 61 percent in 1999 to 54 percent in 2013.
In 2013, the rate of motor vehicle crash deaths per 100 million miles traveled was about 2.6 times higher in rural areas than in urban areas (1.88 in rural areas compared with 0.73 in urban areas). From 1977 to 2013, the rate decreased by 57 percent in rural areas (from 4.35 to 1.88) and 69 percent in urban areas (from 2.35 to 0.73).
In 2013, about three-quarters of pickup and large truck occupant deaths and about 6 in 10 car, minivan, and SUV occupant deaths occurred in rural areas, whereas the majority of pedestrian and bicyclist deaths occurred in urban areas. Motorcyclists were about equally likely to die in rural and in urban areas.
In 2013, single-vehicle crashes accounted for similar proportions of the motor vehicle crash deaths occurring in rural (58 percent) and in urban areas (56 percent).
In 2013, crash deaths in rural areas were less likely to occur on interstates and other arterial roads than crash deaths in urban areas (53 percent compared with 71 percent) and more likely to occur on collector roads (27 compared with 7 percent).
In 2013, 16 percent of crash deaths in rural areas occurred at intersections. By comparison, 31 percent occurred at intersections in urban areas.
In 2013, 66 percent of crash deaths in rural areas occurred on roads with speed limits of 55 mph or higher. By comparison, 28 percent of crash deaths in urban areas occurred on these roads.
Speeding has been a factor in about one-third of crash deaths in both rural and urban areas since 2003. Speeding was defined to include crashes in which the driver was issued a traffic citation for speeding or in which driver-related factors coded indicated speed as a factor (driving too fast for conditions, racing or exceeding the posted speed limit).
In 2013, on roads with speed limits of 55 mph or higher, speeding was a factor in about the same proportions of crash deaths in rural (27 percent) and urban areas (28 percent). On roads with lower speed limits, speeding was more likely to be a factor in rural crash deaths.
From 1982 to 1994, the percentage of fatally injured drivers with BACs at or above 0.08 percent declined steadily from 49 percent in both rural and urban areas to 34 percent in rural areas and to 32 percent in urban areas. Since 1994, about a third of fatally injured drivers have had BACs of 0.08 percent or higher in both rural and urban areas. In urban areas, the percentage of fatally injured pedestrians ages 16 and older with BACs at or above 0.08 percent has remained between 34 and 40 percent since 1982. In comparison, in rural areas the percentage of fatally injured pedestrians age 16 and older with BACs at or above 0.08 percent declined from 53 percent in 1982 to 39 percent in 2013, a reduction of 26 percent.
According to a national daytime observational survey of motorists in 2013, safety belt use among front seat occupants was 85 percent in rural areas, 87 percent in urban areas, and 88 percent in suburban areas.
Pickrell, T.M. and Liu, C. 2014. Seat belt use in 2013 - overall results. Report no. DOT HS-811-875. Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Unrestrained vehicle occupants are more likely than restrained occupants to be fatally injured in a crash, so belt use is much lower among fatally injured occupants. In 2013, of fatally injured passenger vehicle occupants 13 and older, 45 percent in rural areas, and 47 percent in urban areas were belted.
©1996-2015, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Highway Loss Data Institute | www.iihs.org
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