On our Advanced Drivers of North America courses for defensive and advanced driving, we inevitably ask the trainees which type of road in America is the most dangerous in terms of people being killed, between:
- Fast, divided highways;
- Fast arterial roads leading into large towns and cities;
- Business and retail-zone streets;
- Inner-city side-streets;
- Rural roads.
To be fair, a few people do get the answer correct — all kudos to them — and the correct answer is that in America and in most other developed nations, more people are killed in crashes on rural roads than on all other types of road added together.
There are several factors which create this situation, including;
- Inappropriate speeds on narrow and sometimes curvy & hilly roads;
- Road maintenance and traffic signs, etc., can be questionable;
- Slow-moving, large agricultural vehicles are often common (see photo);
- Mud and agricultural detritus can be occasional, serious hazards;
- Wild animals as well as farm animals can be more likely, on the road;
- There’s relatively very little police enforcement;
- Because of low enforcement, drunk-driving etc., can be more common;
- Local drivers’ over-confidence that “nobody will be coming,” etc.
Yesterday — June 27 — the Post and Courier ran a saddening article under the headline ‘South Carolina leads nation in fatality rate for rural roads, study says’, and while that word “leads” is confusing, it eventually became clear that “nearly four people died on [SC] state rural roads for every 100 million miles of travel.”
Four deaths per 100 million miles might sound like a small figure to any layman who is not “up” on the subject but believe me it is not. The latest figures show the U.S. national rate to be 1.13 and South Carolina’s overall rate to be 1.89. In other words, a rate of “nearly four” is about 250 percent higher than the national average and about 67 percent higher than South Carolina’s own overall average. To put it another way (using 2016 figures), if the US average road death rate was the same as South Carolina’s rate of deaths on rural roads, the annual number of highway fatalities in America would skyrocket from 40,200 per year — which is already far too high — to something approaching a mind-numbing 140,700.
Read the full article, from the Post and Courier.