TRIP Rural Roads Report highlights safety challenges

Rural_Roads_TRIP_Infographics_June_2017_300A new report published this summer by TRIP, a national transportation research group, highlights the challenges and opportunities facing America’s rural transportation system. The comprehensive study, Rural Connections: Challenges and Opportunities in America’s Heartland, delves into the use, condition, and safety of our rural roads and bridges. Improving safety is a key concern, and the report identifies the type improvements needed.

Nationally, traffic fatalities are 2.5 times higher on rural roads

The TRIP study indicates that traffic fatalities on the nation’s rural, non-Interstate roads occur at a rate approximately two-and-a-half times higher than on all other roads. A disproportionate share of fatalities take place on rural roads compared to the amount of traffic they carry.

  • Nationally, rural, non-Interstate roads have a traffic fatality rate that is approximately two-and-a-half times higher than all other roads. In 2015, non-Interstate rural roads had a traffic fatality rate of 2.18 deaths for every 100 million Vehicle Miles of Travel (VMT), compared to 0.83 deaths per 100 million Vehicle Miles of Travel on all other roads.
  • Rural, non-Interstate routes accounted for 22 percent of all Vehicle Miles Traveled in the U.S. in 2015. However, crashes on the nation’s rural, non-Interstate routes resulted in 43 percent, or 15,132 of the nation’s 35,092 traffic deaths in 2015.
  • After decreasing between 2012 and 2014, the number of fatalities and the fatality rate on rural, non-Interstate roads increased in 2015. From 2014 to 2015 the number of traffic fatalities in the U.S. on non-Interstate rural roads increased from 14,781 to 15,132 and the traffic fatality rate per 100 million VMT increased from 2.14 to 2.18.
  • The National Safety Council reports that overall U.S. traffic fatalities in 2016 increased 6.5% from 2015.

 

Rural fatalities in Ohio mirror national statistics

The traffic fatality rate on Ohio’s rural, non-Interstate roads is also approximately two-and-a-half times higher than on all other roads. In 2015, non-Interstate rural roads had a traffic fatality rate of 1.84 deaths for every 100 million Vehicle Miles of Travel (VMT), compared to a fatality rate on all other roads of 0.73 deaths per 100 million VMT.

Much like the nation overall, Ohio’s rural, non-Interstate routes accounted for 22 percent of all Vehicle Miles Traveled in the state in 2015. However, despite this relatively low percentage of VMT, crashes on Ohio’s rural, non-Interstate routes resulted in 467 fatalities, representing 42% of the 1,110 total traffic fatalities in the state.

Some good news: Ohio rural traffic fatalities trending downward

On a positive note, the National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that annual traffic fatalities on Ohio’s rural roads have consistently trended downward since 2010. The NHTSA numbers are not exactly “apples to apples” with the TRIP study, most likely because of a slightly different definition of rural areas and/or the inclusion of rural Interstates. But that does not change the positive trend:

Annual Rural Traffic Fatalities in Ohio (NHTSA)

2010 – 713

2011 – 661

2012 – 640

2013 – 513

2014 – 496

2015 – 492 (TRIP = 467)

Ohio’s rural roads and bridges better than national averages

The condition of Ohio’s rural roads and bridges also fares well compared with much of the nation. Overall pavement condition is rated “Good” for 65% of Ohio’s rural roads and “Poor” for only 6%. In comparison, the U.S. averages for rural roads are 48% “Good” and 15% “Poor”.

Similarly, only 7% of Ohio’s rural bridges are rated as “Structurally Deficient” compared to 10% of U.S. rural bridges overall.

Ohio rural roads still face safety challenges

Despite some positive trends and statistics, Ohio’s rural communities still face challenges for improving traffic safety and keeping road and bridges in good condition.

  • Traffic fatalities per 100 million Vehicle Miles of Travel remain approximately 2.5 times higher on rural roads than on all other roads.
  • While a variety of safety improvements will help reduce fatal traffic incidents in rural communities, adequate funding is an annual challenge. Federal highway funding cannot be used on many rural roads, most of which are the responsibility of local governments, which may have limited resources.
  • Rural population growth, and the corresponding increase in Vehicle Miles Traveled, can strain road capacity and increase traffic congestion over time. Selective expansion and upgrades will always be needed.

Continued safety improvements on Ohio’s rural roadways will reduce fatalities and help keep the trend moving in the right direction. Saving lives – the single biggest reason for finding a sustainable method of infrastructure funding in the United States!

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