‘Beautiful and Deadly’: Rural roads have disproportionate share of traffic deaths

The population is lower and traffic congestion is less, but that doesn’t stop rural roads from having a disproportionate share of highway deaths.

In a 73-page study released last week by the Governor’s Highway Safety Association, America’s Rural Roads: Beautiful and Deadly, researchers found that about 48% of U.S. traffic deaths occurred on rural roads from 2016-20 even though only about 19% of the population lives in rural areas. As a result of the study of federal accident statistics, paid for by State Farm Insurance, the association is pushing for states to improve their education and safety efforts in rural areas.

The issues on rural roads — distractions, impaired driving, speeding and not wearing seat belts — often are the same as in urban areas, but they occur at a higher rate in rural areas, often with deadlier results.

In 2020, drivers taking a trip the same length were 62% more likely to die if they were in a rural area rather than an urban area, the study said.