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What are the risks for drivers on Virginia's rural roads?

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Virginia drivers may instinctively feel safer on rural roads. With lower speed limits and fewer cars on these roads than busy interstates, drivers may think they are less at risk for car accidents. Interestingly, rural roads are not necessarily safer, and may actually pose an increased danger of fatal car accidents.

In 2012, less than 20 percent of the United States population lived in rural road areas, but over 50 percent of car crash fatalities were attributed to accidents that occurred on rural roads. The fatality rate for rural areas is 2.4 times greater than that of urban areas.

Speeding is a significant factor in car accidents, both in urban and rural areas, with roughly 30 percent of the fatalities in both areas attributable to speeding. The majority of fatal rural road accidents occur during the day, in contrast to urban areas, in which the majority of fatal crashes occur at night. Alcohol plays an important role in fatal rural road crashes, with approximately 55 percent of rural road fatalities linked to alcohol-impaired crashes.

Use of seat belt restraints could factor into rural road fatalities as well, as a slightly greater percentage of vehicle occupants in urban areas use restraints than those in rural areas. Vehicle roll overs may also contribute to increased rural road fatalities, as 40 percent of passenger vehicle occupant fatalities in rural areas occurred in vehicles that rolled over, in contrast to only 26 percent of deaths from roll overs in urban regions.

There are, of course, many rural road car crashes that lead to injuries, but fortunately do not result in fatalities. A person who has been injured in a rural road car accident can nonetheless face devastating consequences, incur significant medical expenses, and miss time from work. A person who has been injured in a rural road crash, or a family who has lost a loved one in a fatal car crash, may find that an attorney can provide helpful guidance regarding available legal options when an accident has been caused by the negligence of another.

Source: U.S. Department of Transportation, "Traffic Safety Facts," accessed Jan. 29, 2016

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