Rural Americans more likely to die in car crashes

Oct. 12, 2017—Traveling the backroads of America? Keep this in mind the next time you get behind the wheel: The deadliest roads are rural ones, a new report reveals. It found that the most rural counties in the U.S. had motor vehicle death rates up to 10 times higher than the most urban counties.

Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) looked at 2014 data. The worst crash death rates were in the West, with a death rate of 40 deaths per 100,000 people in the most rural areas and 3.9 in the most urban ones. The Northeast fared best, with a death rate of 10.8 in highly rural areas and 3.5 in the most urban ones.

Country vs. city: Why?

The study also found a likely reason for the gap in death rates: People in rural areas are less likely to buckle up. At the time of a fatal vehicle crash, 61.3 percent of the drivers and passengers in the most rural counties weren't wearing seat belts, the researchers reported. That compares to 44.4 percent in the most urban counties.

Past studies also show that rural drivers are more likely to be speeding when a deadly crash occurs. And rural areas have fewer paved roads and road shoulders—possibly another contributing factor, the researchers speculated. With hospitals more spread out in rural areas, a longer wait for lifesaving medical care might also play a role.

For more findings, read the full study.

Buckle up

Seat belts cut the risk of getting hurt or killed in a car crash by about half, CDC reports. And this study is a powerful reminder to always wear one, no matter how short the trip.

Also be sure kids are properly buckled in a seat belt, booster seat or car seat—whatever is appropriate for their age and height. Use this car seat assessment to make sure your child is riding right.

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