Urban roads safer than rural ones, study says

Federal traffic data indicates that where you live plays a major part in how likely you'll get into a fatal auto collision. It also shows how important engineering is to the safety of roadways.
Written by Andrew Nusca, Contributor

Where you live greatly impacts the likelihood of getting into a fatal car collision.

According to a new study, the safest places to drive in the United States aren't empty rural roads in America's heartland -- in fact, it's Washington, D.C., Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut and Illinois.

The most dangerous? Wyoming, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Arkansas.

The study is based on federal data of traffic fatalities per 100,000 population and per 100 million miles driven.

The big lesson: urban roads are safer than rural ones, in some places by a factor of two.

The reason? Urban areas usually have roads with lower speed limits and safer roadway features (divided lanes, guardrails, fast access to emergency medical care, etc.)

Most rural fatalities happen not by colliding with another vehicle, but when the original car leaves the road and crashes into trees or other obstructions.

To be sure, the "safest" states are also some of the ones with the most fatalities overall. (And naturally, these statistics don't take into consideration less-than-fatal collisions, which I'm willing to bet are much, much higher in dense areas.) But per capita, you're more likely to die in a car crash in a rural area than in one in a city.

The results have been met with some degree of criticism.

USA Today reports:

Many traffic safety groups such as the Governors Highway Safety Association argue that such comparisons don't accurately reflect how safe a state's roads are. A better measure, they say, is whether states have enacted proven safety enhancements such as motorcycle helmet laws and primary seat belt laws, which allow police to stop motorists solely for being unbuckled.

Is the difference a matter of measurement, or an inevitable result of the way the world works? After all, we can't have everyone going 25 miles per hour across the plains states.

Still, the study shows that the architects and engineers who design our roadways, and the elected officials who regulate them, play a large part in their inherent safety.

The rates of each state per 100,000 population, arranged from safest to most dangerous, below:

  • District of Columbia: 4.8
  • Massachusetts: 5.1
  • New York: 5.9
  • Connecticut: 6.3
  • New Jersey: 6.7
  • Illinois: 7.1
  • Washington: 7.4
  • Rhode Island: 7.9
  • Minnesota: 8.0
  • California: 8.3
  • New Hampshire: 8.3
  • Hawaii: 8.4
  • Ohio: 8.8
  • Utah: 8.8
  • Michigan: 8.7
  • Alaska: 9.2
  • Nevada: 9.2
  • Colorado: 9.3
  • Maryland: 9.6
  • Virginia: 9.6
  • Oregon: 9.8
  • Wisconsin: 9.9
  • Pennsylvania: 10.0
  • Indiana: 10.8
  • USA average: 11.0
  • Vermont: 11.9
  • Maine: 12.1
  • Arizona: 12.2
  • Iowa: 12.4
  • Nebraska: 12.4
  • Texas: 12.4
  • Delaware: 13.1
  • Georgia: 13.1
  • Kansas: 13.7
  • Florida: 13.8
  • North Carolina: 14.0
  • Idaho: 14.6
  • Missouri: 14.7
  • Tennessee: 15.7
  • South Dakota: 16.1
  • Alabama: 18.0
  • New Mexico: 18.0
  • Kentucky: 18.3
  • Louisiana: 18.3
  • South Carolina: 19.6
  • West Virginia: 19.6
  • Oklahoma: 20.0
  • Arkansas 20.3
  • North Dakota: 21.6
  • Montana: 22.7
  • Mississippi: 23.7
  • Wyoming: 24.6

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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