What’s the Difference Between Urban and Rural Crash Risks?

Published on Apr 14, 2022 at 1:35 pm in Car Accidents.


Many people automatically assume that individuals residing in rural areas are less prone to auto accidents than their counterparts who live in urban areas like Baltimore. However, you may find yourself surprised to learn that the opposite is the case.

Below, we’ll uncover what the statistics say about your prospects of becoming involved in a crash in a rural area versus an urban one. We’ll also delve into the reasons behind the data.

What Are Rural Versus Urban Crash Statistics?

Data published by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows that at least 58% of motor vehicle accidents happen in rural areas. If this statistic isn’t concerning enough, National Public Radio (NPR) research shows that an estimated 23% of United States residents reside in rural areas. This statistic makes it clear that despite the fact that fewer residents live in rural areas, they’re more likely to have crashes.

NPR researchers also discovered that crash rates in rural zones can be as high as 90% in some areas.

These statistics led researchers to conclude that the risk of motorists becoming involved in a crash is 2.5 times higher in rural areas than in urban ones.

What Makes Rural Areas So Unsafe for Drivers?

Reckless driving is the primary contributing factor in rural accidents. Driving behaviors that may fall into this category include:

  • Speeding
  • Failing to maintain one’s lane
  • Operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol
  • Failing to wear one’s seat belt

The potential for wildlife to run out in front of vehicles in rural areas is high and results in crashes as well.

What Impact Does Roadway Design Have on Crash Rates?

Researchers also agree that road design plays a significant factor in causing rural crashes compared to urban ones in the following ways:

Two-lane roads and missing barriers: Country roads are more apt to be two-lane, where only a double line separates head-on traffic from potential face-to-face contact. Urban motorists can generally rely on there being more lanes and barriers, including medians or concrete barriers, to separate them from one another.

Windy, narrow roads: Rural roads often navigate through communities where residents own larger parcels of land. As such, you’ll often find places where transportation officials put in winding, narrow roadways to ensure that they provide access but leave behind as little of a footprint on the land as possible. This type of roadway design leaves little margin for error. It presents a risk of a motorist becoming entangled in a crash if they temporarily navigate out of their lane.

Narrow or nonexistent shoulders: It’s not uncommon for ditches, significant drop-offs, or tree lines to nestle up to rural roadways, making for a potentially deadly situation if a motorist temporarily loses control of their vehicle. Urban motorists typically have areas to pull off, including various types of shoulders, driveways, or parking lots if driver error occurs or they need to get out of harm’s way.

What Types of Crashes Are Most Likely to Occur in Rural Versus Urban Areas?

The crashes that urban and rural motorists are most likely to become involved in are different.

Head-on crashes are a concern in rural areas where no barrier separates motorists from oncoming traffic. Rollover accidents are more likely to occur if a driver is operating their vehicle at a high rate of speed and loses control of it.

The types of collisions that urban motorists have to worry about most include the following:

T-Bone Crashes: These most commonly occur at intersections when motorists fail to yield to the right of way of other drivers, pedestrians, or cyclists.
Rear-End Accidents: These happen the most in heavily congested areas, such as during rush hour. Motorists tend to drive too closely to each other and face distractions, resulting in these urban crashes.

Truck Collisions: Urban motorists are more likely to encounter truckers than rural ones. Drivers are more likely to come in contact with 18-wheelers on highways or interstates, where speeds are a bit higher than residential city roads. Truckers’ delayed braking may result in deadly rear-end crashes with passenger cars. A semi-truck operator’s failure to yield to other motorists’ right of way may result in underride accidents occurring. It’s not uncommon for truckers to become involved in blind spot collisions or crush motorists when turning either.

Baltimore car accident attorneys regularly work with clients who have suffered life-threatening injuries in all these different types of crashes.

Injury or Fatality Risks Associated with Urban and Rural Crashes

Even though statistics show that crashes are more apt to occur in rural areas, they tend to happen in one primary place in urban areas. Crashes commonly occur when motorists are within 25 miles of their homes.

Researchers suggest that accidents occur so close to motorists’ homes because they start to feel comfortable with their surroundings. If you’re wondering why this is such a concerning statistic, it’s because the closer a motorist gets to their home, the more likely they’ll encounter kids playing in their yards, on the road, or in one of their neighborhood’s cul-de-sacs. There’s a strong potential that a child will run after a ball in the road and a motorist will be eager to get home, and a catastrophic collision will occur.

The likelihood that a motorist will encounter other pedestrians and bike riders is also high, putting them at risk of getting hurt.

One detail that suburban and urban motorists don’t have to concern themselves with as much as rural ones is receiving medical attention if an injury crash occurs. This one factor is the leading reason why motorists’ injuries tend to be more catastrophic or deadly in rural areas compared to urban ones.

Since rural roadways are less trafficked, there’s a stronger chance of a motorist having a catastrophic crash that renders them unconscious and no one realizing it for quite some time. Delays incurred in summoning paramedics to the scene and getting to the hospital can make a difference. What might have initially been a survivable crash can quickly become deadly if a motorist doesn’t receive the right care fast enough.

What Options Do You Have If a Crash Hurt You?

Although most people you encounter who become involved in a car crash only suffer minor soft tissue injuries such as whiplash, a select handful end up with far more debilitating injuries.

While motorists who suffer bone fractures, internal organ damage, or brain injuries like concussions often recover from their injuries, ones with compartment syndrome, blunt force trauma, and paralysis often do not. The latter individuals must instead deal with the consequences of their crashes for the rest of their lives.

Know that Maryland law allows motorists injured in catastrophic crashes to recover compensation when another driver’s negligence resulted in their injuries. Our car accident attorneys at Belsky & Horowitz, LLC can advise you of what steps you need to take to hold the motorist who struck you liable when you have serious injuries that you’re dealing with.



Fill out the form below about your potential case and a personal injury lawyer will get back to you as quickly as possible.