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Study says urban roads are safer than rural roads

According to a new study based on federal data, roads in urban areas are safer than roads in rural areas. The conclusion from the study is that where you live may determine your likelihood of getting into a fatal car accident. Rural areas still have higher rates of highway deaths even in states with low overall highway death rates. The state of Louisiana did not fare well in the study, and came in as one of the states with the highest highway death rate.

The new federal data suggests that the safest states to drive in the United States are Massachusetts and Washington, D.C. The most dangerous states to drive in are Mississippi, Louisiana, Montana and Wyoming. The study was put together by reviewing federal data of traffic fatalities per 100,000 population and per 100 million miles driven. The state with the worst highway death rate was Wyoming with a rate of 24.6 percent. The place with the best highway death rate was Washington D.C. with 4.8 percent. Massachusetts was not far behind with a rate of 5.1 percent. Louisiana ranked towards the bottom with a rate of 18.3 percent.

It is surmised rural roads are more deadly than urban streets because rural roads have higher speed limits, less safety engineering like dividing barriers and slower access to emergency medical care. A spokesperson for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says that a rural Western state will have a higher highway death rate because of a greater use of rural roads with high speed limits in comparison to an urban Northeastern state.

Some highway safety advocate groups like the Governors Highway Safety Association say the study is misleading because state comparisons do not accurately reflect the safety of a state's roads. Instead, reviewing what safety measures a state has passed is more accurate. For example, a state like New Hampshire that has a low highway death rate could improve the safety of its roads by passing laws that would make motorists safer in car accidents.

Source: USA Today, "Study: Roads are safer in urban areas," Larry Copeland, 1/25/11

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