It’s easy to assume that fewer accidents happen on rural roads than urban roads. There is generally less traffic on rural roads. Many highways pass through urban areas because the urban areas are where the most people are. Highways often have more lanes of traffic and more bumper-to-bumper traffic which creates more ways cars can collide.
The assumption that rural roads aren’t as dangerous as urban roads is wrong, however. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) “the characteristics of fatal motor vehicle crashes differ between rural and urban areas.” In urban areas, there are more intersections. Intersections are a common cause of pedestrian and bicycle accidents. Rural rends tend to have higher speed limits.
Generally, the IIHS states, more passenger car and truck accident deaths occur on rural roads. Even though about 19% of people live in rural areas, and 30% of vehicle miles traveled are on rural roads, nearly 50% of all traffic fatalities occur on rural roads. The good news is that since 2000 when the percentage of rural road deaths was 61%, the percentage has been declining to slightly under 50% for 2019.
What makes rural roads so dangerous?
Many of the rural roads in Chattanooga and throughout Tennessee and North Georgia are dangerous because:
- There are only two lanes. Many rural roads have just one lane in each direction. This means if you want to pass another driver, you need to move into a lane where there is oncoming traffic. Entering into a lane with opposing traffic increases the likelihood of a head-on crash which is often deadly. You and any drivers passing into your path need to be extra cautious when turning where there are curves, when the roads are wet, or there are any obstructions such as trees with low branches.
- Roads are often dark. Unlike major highways and urban roads, many rural roads are not well-lit. Dark roads can make it hard to pass and hard to turn. Dark roads also make it hard for drivers to stay in their lane. Dark roads make it especially hard to see oncoming traffic.
- Roads curve and twist. Many rural roads wind and turn because they were designed to follow the landscape instead of taking control of the landscapes. Some rural roads are known for their hairpin turns which make travel difficult even when you’re going well below the speed limit. Many rural roads also have lots of hills which can make it hard to see oncoming vehicles until they’re right on top of you. Roads with hills are especially difficult for trucks that are carrying shifting cargo.
- Unfamiliarity can lead to crashes. While the locals may know how to navigate local roads, many drivers, even if they’re just from a nearby town, are not familiar with the roads. A lack of familiarity can cause drivers to fail to anticipate any hazards or to know where to turn.
- Animals proliferate. Deer and other animals can appear out of nowhere causing you to slam on your brakes. If you’re lucky, you avoid the deer and stay on the road. If you’re traveling too fast, your car could veer off the road or strike the animal – both of which could cause deaths or catastrophic accidents.
- Rural roads may be in poor condition. The Tennessee Department of Transportation, county transportation departments, and private road maintenance companies normally make repairs where the most traffic is. This means that many rural roads can go a long time without traffic signs being fixed, potholes being filled, and obstructions being cleared. Many rural roads lack traffic signs such as stop signs and clearly marked lanes, too. It can be much more difficult to clear traffic if an accident occurs because many rural roads don’t have wide shoulders.
- Drivers are negligent. Many rural roads have speed limits that are higher than urban roads because there’s normally less traffic. Even when the speed limits are comparable, drivers on rural roads often take more chances because there aren’t as many vehicles around and because they think there aren’t as many police vehicles around. Drivers may not wear their seat belts, or may drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs, because they assume they are less likely to be around other vehicles.
- There is a lack of local medical help. A major reason why rural accidents often cause deaths and serious accidents such as head trauma or broken bones is that it often takes a long time to get medical help. Even if you have your smartphone and the police arrive quickly, rural areas do not have the same proximity to hospitals and burn centers that urban areas have. This means it can take much longer for an ambulance or emergency medical service to arrive. Delays in getting to a hospital can mean the difference between life and death. Just an extra 10 or 20-minute delay can be catastrophic if you have a brain injury, spinal cord damage, a heart attack, or other severe injuries.
It can also be much harder to drive if there is snow or wet weather because drivers can’t shift into other lanes where the roads may be better or pull off to the side of the ride to stop until the weather improves.
At Wagner & Wagner Attorneys at Law, our Chattanooga car accident attorneys have been fighting for injured drivers for 75 years. We file personal injury claims on behalf of anyone who is injured by a negligent driver or by a manufacturer that designed a defective car or truck part. We file wrongful death cases on behalf of the families of any relatives who are killed in a car crash. We demand compensation for all your financial losses and your pain and suffering.
To learn if you have a car or truck accident claim, call us at 423-756-7923 or complete our contact form to schedule an appointment with an experienced car accident lawyer. Our lawyers represent clients in Chattanooga and Cleveland, TN, in North Georgia, and the neighboring areas.
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