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Are rural highways safer than city streets?

Many drivers who use rural highways may believe they are safer than when they drive through the city. Fewer drivers should mean fewer opportunities for an accident, right?

Unfortunately, the data does not entirely support this surface-level assumption. Regardless of how many cars are on the road, rural and urban roadways have fundamentally different characteristics that can impact how accidents occur.

More pedestrian and bicyclist deaths occur in urban areas, but passenger vehicle and large truck occupant deaths or deaths on high-speed roads occur more often in rural areas. While 30% of vehicle miles traveled are on rural highways, almost half of crash deaths are in rural areas.

What to do after a rural accident

If an accident occurs on a rural highway, what should drivers and passengers do? Here are a few key steps:

  • Call 911. As with any accident, it is important to call for help right away. This is especially important on rural highways as some cities contract with the county sheriff’s office to provide law enforcement, and if the accident doesn’t occur near the county seat it may take longer for law enforcement to arrive.
  • Take photos of the accident. If the other driver tries to claim you caused the accident, you may need proof that supports your side of the story. In rural areas, you may not be able to rely on witnesses.
  • Continue medical treatment. If you or someone else in the car is injured, make sure to follow all medical advice and continue to seek treatment, even if doctors’ offices are far away. It can help if you seek compensation for your injuries.

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