Study: Car accident fatalities more common in rural areas

Car accidents are one of the leading causes of death for drivers across the country. While we have slashed car accident fatalities over the last several decades through stricter laws and safer vehicles, we are still facing a significant number of accidents every year.

The risk of getting in a car accident is higher in densely populated cities, as the roads are smaller and there are more cars on the road. But one study suggests that while more accidents happen in cities, more car accident deaths occur in rural areas.

A study by the CDC has found a significant difference in the number of car accident deaths in urban versus rural regions. The numbers range from 3.5 deaths per 100,000 people in several northeast urban centers to 29.2 deaths per 100,000 people in southern rural areas that contain less than 2,500 people.

Put in simpler terms, there are over 8x more car accident deaths in the nation’s most rural areas than in cities.

The cause of rural car accident fatalities

The study attributes most of this difference to seat belt use. In rural areas, drivers may feel safe enough to not wear a seat belt. They also tend to drive faster, as there are not as many cars on the road.

This is exasperated in the South, where states tend to have more lenient seat belt laws. Even in the Northeast, however, where seat belt laws are more heavily enforced, death rates were higher in rural areas.

The study has also highlighted several other factors that may help to explain this trend:

  • It is easier to drive faster on rural roads
  • There is an increased percentage of impaired drivers
  • There are fewer medical centers, spread farther apart, for drivers to go to following an accident
  • Lower wages and higher unemployment could force people to drive older vehicles lacking modern safety features

The study found that stricter laws and enforcement surrounding seat belt use had a positive effect, saving lives in states that have implemented these measures.

No matter where you live, seat belt use is critical to prevent the risk of death in a car accident. Even if you are in a state that has lax seat belt laws, always be sure to buckle up before you hit the road.