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Rural Americans Are More Likely to Suffer Fatal Crashes

People who live in rural areas are likelier to be involved in fatal crashes than are people who live in urban areas in Illinois, according to a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC attributes the higher fatality rate to reduced seat belt usage in less populated areas. In addition, people in rural areas are more likely to drive older cars with fewer safety features, drive at higher speeds, and operate their vehicles while impaired.

Prevalence of Fatal Crashes in Rural Areas

According to the CDC, motor vehicle occupants in rural areas have fatality rates that are between three and 10 times higher than occupants who are traveling in vehicles in urban areas. Researchers examined data for drivers and occupants of passenger vehicles who were age 18 and older in areas ranging from cities with population densities of one million people or more to rural areas with population densities of 2,500 people or less. The CDC found differences in the primary regions of the U.S. as well as in urban and rural areas. In the Midwest, the researchers found that there was a fatality rate of 5.3 people per 100,000 residents in urban areas. In rural areas, there was a fatality rate of 25.8 deaths per 100,000 residents. In the West, urban areas had fatality rates of 3.9 while the most rural locations had fatality rates of 40.0.

Contributing Factors

The CDC reports a clear link between seat belt use and the fatality rate. It found that rural residents were less likely to use seat belts than were people who live in cities. In the most rural areas, 74.4 percent of people reported that they always used seat belts. In urban areas, 88.8 percent of people reported that they always used seat belts. Other factors that may contribute to the higher fatality rate in rural areas include that people in rural areas may be more likely to drive older vehicles that have fewer safety features than those found in more modern passenger vehicles, they tend to drive at higher speeds, they are likelier to drive while impaired, and they are often further away from a designated trauma center when serious crashes occur.

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