Rural road fatalities still on the rise

News TRIP March 04, 2005
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More than half of traffic fatalities--52%--in the U

More than half of traffic fatalities--52%--in the U.S. between 1999 and 2003 have occurred on rural roads and highways, even though vehicle travel on these roads only accounted for 28% of travel during that period, according to a new report released by TRIP, a national nonprofit transportation research group.


TRIP's study, "Growing Traffic in Rural America: Safety, Mobility and Economic Challenges in America's Heartland," found that there has been an average of 22,127 traffic fatalities annually on the nation's rural roads between 1999 and 2003; during the same time period there was an average of 42,301 people killed each year in traffic accidents on all roads in the U.S.


"It is critical that we improve safety on the nation's rural roads, which are exposing rural residents and visitors to an unacceptable level of risk," said William M. Wilkins, TRIP's executive director. "We know how to make rural roads safer. What is missing is adequate funding for road safety projects that will save numerous lives."


The TRIP report found that the five states with the highest rate of traffic fatalities per 100 million miles of travel on rural roads are: Arizona, Florida, South Carolina, Montana and Kentucky. The five states with the largest number of rural traffic deaths between 1999 and 2003 are: Texas, California, Florida, North Carolina and Pennsylvania.


"America's rural roads are critical links in the nation's transportation system, providing farm-to-market transportation and serving as drivers of economic growth in the Heartland," said Charles Stamp, chairman of the Association of Equipment Manufacturers and vice president of Public Affairs Worldwide at Deere & Co. "These roads are the primary routes of travel and commerce for the approximately 60 million people living in rural America."


"As a county commissioner in a rural area, I am able to see first-hand the tragic consequences of rural road fatalities," said the National Association of Counties President-Elect and Umatilla County, Ore., Commissioner Bill Hansell. "State and local governments need additional funding for rural road safety improvements. Congress has a tremendous opportunity in the current reauthorization of the federal surface transportation program to boost investment for projects that will save lives on the nation's rural roads."


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