Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Sunday

July 21, 2013

Rural driving requires diligence

KALKASKA — A two-car collision at a rural Kalkaska County intersection claimed three lives on April 29.

A three-car crash at another rural intersection in the same county killed two more on July 7.

And, a 15-year-old girl died July 5 when her vehicle left the road in yet another accident in Kalkaska County.

Six lives lost in three separate crashes in less than three months, all in the same county.

Each accident had different causes and varying circumstances, but collectively, they affirm a fact well-known to law enforcement but one often lost on the public: driving on country roadways is dangerous.

“There is a discrepancy, or difference, in the fatality rate on rural roads versus urban roads,” said Frank Douma, a research fellow at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota. “That’s counter-intuitive. Most people think urban roads are more dangerous compared to the bucolic road, or the road less-traveled. It seems like you are in control (in the country.)”

Statistics show drivers are far more likely to perish on rural roadways despite less traffic and far fewer miles traveled than urban streets. The numbers are even more profound considering the majority of the population base in America lives in cities versus the countryside. Consider:

- In 2010, there were 30,196 fatal crashes in the United States, resulting in 32,885 fatalities, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Rural areas accounted for 54 percent (16,292) of the fatal crashes, and 55 percent (18,026) of the fatalities as compared to urban areas, which accounted for 45 percent (13,608) of the fatal crashes and 44 percent (14,546) of the fatalities.

- Nineteen percent of the

U.S. population lived in rural areas; however, rural fatalities accounted for 55 percent of all traffic fatalities in 2010.

- Teens are particularly vulnerable to fatal crashes in rural areas, according to the Center for Excellence in Rural Safety at the University of Minnesota.

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