Highway safety behavioral strategies for rural areas (National Academies)

Traffic Safety Pulse News

The National Academies of Sciences has published a new guide to strategies to address highway safety concerns in rural areas. Rural roads comprise approximately 70% of the U.S. road network, but only 19% of the population lives in rural areas (NHTSA, 2020), which means that there are more than nine times the lane-miles per 100,000 residents in rural versus urban areas. Because 46% of the crashes occur in rural areas, the risk of fatality or serious injury on a mileage basis is two times higher on rural than urban roads (NHTSA, 2020).

Rural roads are unique for many reasons, including varying terrain and road conditions, wildlife on the roadways, long distances between services, drivers who are unfamiliar with the area (tourists), and differing road user risk perception. This poses challenges for rural transportation practitioners who tend to have few resources and little funding, but many lane-miles to manage. Research is needed to move beyond infrastructure safety countermeasures and develop behavioral traffic safety tools that encourage safe driving choices in rural areas.

The objective of this research was to develop a behavioral traffic safety countermeasure toolkit for highway safety partners involved with rural road safety (e.g., tribal authorities, local government, law enforcement, emergency responders, engineers) to reduce the frequency and severity of motor vehicle crashes on roads in rural areas. The countermeasure toolkit should be accessible and practical for use by partners with varying levels of traffic safety expertise. Access the guide with strategies to address highway safety concerns in rural areas here.