A lot of drivers tense up in city traffic and even more dread the highways – but the real danger is actually on rural roads, especially in Minnesota. According to the Office of Traffic Safety, 70% of all traffic fatalities in this state take place in rural areas.
This isn’t actually unique to this state, either. Rural areas typically have smaller populations and less traffic, but more fatal car wrecks than urban areas.
High speeds and poor visibility
Those rural routes can be beautiful but not particularly well-lit or clear. The visibility can get even worse when it’s foggy, rainy or snowy. Poor visibility and difficult road conditions can make it harder for drivers to react to hazards on the road, including other cars that may have crossed into their lane while trying to pass a slower vehicle or to avoid wildlife.
Speeding can also be an issue. Typically, there’s less traffic enforcement on rural roads, so people sometimes feel free to go a little faster than they’re supposed to be going. Accidents are always likely to be more serious when they’re at higher speeds.
Limited access to emergency services
In densely populated urban areas, emergency response teams can usually reach accident sites within mere minutes. However, in rural regions with vast distances between communities, it can take much longer. Emergency response services sometimes have to navigate poorly marked, poorly maintained and generally confusing terrain to reach an accident site – and even finding the site of an accident can be difficult without clear landmarks or cross streets.
Small delays can matter a lot when someone is critically injured. The first hour following a traumatic injury is often called the “golden hour,” because victims who receive emergency treatment within that time are more likely to survive than those who do not – and someone injured in a rural crash may spend that whole hour just waiting on an ambulance to arrive.
Finally, once a car accident victim makes it to the emergency room, they may not be able to receive the services they need. Rural hospitals aren’t always equipped to handle some of the worst injuries, so victims may need to be transferred to a larger facility.
Overall, driving in rural areas may be a relaxing experience most of the time, but – statistically speaking – it is one that is particularly dangerous, even though most motorists understandably don’t realize that fact.