Urban areas tend to have more car accidents than rural areas due to the greater number of motor vehicles, pedestrians, and bicyclists on the road. However, a greater number of traffic fatalities occur in rural areas.

What Do the Statistics Say About Urban vs. Rural Traffic Fatalities?

There are several resources available that provide information about the number of traffic deaths on rural roads.

A study published by Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. analyzed the differences in motor vehicle fatality risk factors for urban and rural areas. The researchers found that rural counties had higher motor vehicle fatality rates than urban counties (22 vs. 14 per 100,000, respectively). This conclusion supported data and findings from other sources.

The IIHS found that about 19% of the United States’ population resides in rural areas. However, nearly half of traffic deaths in the United States occur in rural areas. In 2019, the rate of traffic fatalities per 100 million miles traveled was approximately two times higher in rural areas than urban areas.

The NHTSA also reviewed data for rural and urban crashes. In 2018, 45% of the traffic fatalities occurred in rural areas, and 53% of traffic deaths occurred in urban areas. However, the NHTSA stated that per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, the fatality rate for rural areas was two times higher than in urban areas.

Since 2016, the number of urban traffic deaths has been higher than the number of rural traffic deaths. Before 2016, rural traffic deaths were higher than urban traffic deaths.

Kentucky appears to have a higher number of collisions in urban areas but a higher fatality rate in rural areas.

In 2018, 36.1% of traffic accidents in Kentucky occurred in rural areas, but 56.5% of traffic deaths occurred in rural areas. Compare that to 63.9 % of traffic accidents occurring in urban areas, with just 43.5 % of the traffic deaths. In 2019, the percentages were about the same, with rural areas in Kentucky having more traffic fatalities than urban areas.

What Factors Contribute to Deadly Car Accidents in Rural Areas?

Several factors may contribute to the higher number of fatal car crashes in rural areas.

Failure to Wear a Seatbelt

Wearing a seatbelt reduces the risk of injury and death in a car crash. However, drivers and passengers are less likely to wear seatbelts when driving in rural areas.


Drivers on rural roads often exceed the posted speed limit. There is very little traffic, and roads may not be patrolled often by police officers. Therefore, drivers feel they can drive faster on rural roads than on busy urban roads.

Lack of Red Lights and Stop Signs

Roads in urban areas can stretch for miles without a stop sign or a traffic light. Without these devices to slow the speed of vehicles, drivers are free to travel at much higher rates of speed and may drive recklessly compared to urban areas.

Alcohol Use

Drinking and driving is a problem in both urban and rural areas. However, urban areas lack forms of public transportation for individuals who have had too much to drink. Drunk driving occurs more often in rural areas due to the distance between residences and town and the lack of a designated driver.

Lack of Vehicle Safety Features

Individuals in rural areas tend to drive older vehicles. These vehicles lack the safety features of newer model vehicles. In a crash, the lack of safety features could result in a higher risk for traumatic injuries and deaths.

Unsafe Roads

The roads in rural areas may be unpaved. They may have large holes and steep drop-offs. A driver can lose control of the vehicle, especially if the driver is speeding or driving recklessly. The vehicle may hit a tipping point that causes a rollover accident.

Who is Responsible for Car Crashes in Both Urban and Rural Areas?

As with any car accident in Kentucky, the person at fault for the collision is responsible for damages caused by the crash. In a rural, single-car accident, the driver may be liable for a passenger’s damages if the driver was negligent in causing a car accident.

If you are involved in a car accident, report the crash to the police immediately and seek medical care. You could be entitled to compensation for your economic and non-economic damages. If you are unsure what steps to take to protect your right to a fair settlement, seek legal advice from a car accident attorney.

Contact Our Car Accident Law Firm in Lexington Today To Get More Information

If you’ve been injured in a car accident, please call Minner Vines Injury Lawyers, PLLC for a free case evaluation with a personal injury lawyer or contact us online.

Minner Vines Injury Lawyers, PLLC
325 W Main St #210, Lexington, KY 40507
(859) 550-2900