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Why West Virginia Rural Roads are More Dangerous than Urban Roads and What You Can Do About It

How to Make Traveling on West Virginia’s Country Roads Safer

A West Virginia country road at sunriseTake Me Home Country Roads, a West Virginia favorite, reminds us of home, safety, and peaceful rural roads. In contrast, urban roads and traffic jams are stressful and seem unsafe. So, it may be surprising to learn that the majority of fatal crashes happen on country roads.

That’s right, more than half of America’s traffic occurs on urban roads, but crashes on rural roads account for well over half of all auto accident deaths. Furthermore, 54% of all traffic fatalities in 2013 occurred on rural roads even though only 19% of the U.S. population lives in rural areas. 

What Makes West Virginia’s Rural Roads so Dangerous?

Top 12 Dangers Unique to Rural Roads  

  • #1 Speeding (Speeding is often more dangerous on rural roads)
  • #2 Lower Seat Belt Use
  • Blind Curves and Hidden Driveways
  • No Medical Help Nearby  
  • Unusually Sharp Curves and Steep Hills
  • Narrow Road Width 
  • No Street Lights, Low Visibility
  • No Shoulder or Guardrails
  • Washouts/ Flooding
  • Debris on Road
  • Winding Roads Making Rollover Accidents are More Likely
  • Farm equipment, ATVs, and livestock on Roadway

Rural Roads + Speed + No Seat Belt = Likelihood of Serious Injury or Death

Thankfully, two of the most common causes of rural road crashes are within your control. They are of course speeding and wearing a seatbelt. Thus, you can greatly increase your chances of  avoiding a deadly rural road crash in West Virginia by buckling up & slowing down.  

#1 Speeding: Speeding on Rural Roads is Especially Dangerous

Hilly winding roads, narrow shoulders and limited driver view makes rural roads and speeding a deadly combination. For example, eighty-four West Virginians died in 2017 in high-speed collisions, and around 30% of those crashes involved speeding.

#2  Not Wearing a Seatbelt: Why Buckling Up in West Virginia Matters

Rural residents are consistently shown to buckle up less. In fact, 50% of rural road fatalities involved unrestrained drivers or passengers. In West Virginia, 98 crash fatalities in 2017 involved individuals not wearing seatbelts. Not wearing a seatbelt is a substantial predictor of a crash-related death, and the CDC believes it’s the best explanation for why so many more people die in rural crashes compared to those in urban areas. 

Seatbelts saved  14,955 lives in 2017 and could have saved 2,549 more people had they worn their seat belts, according to the NHTSA. In other words, seatbelts save about 35 people every single day, and the next person a seatbelt saves could be you. Improving seat belt use remains a critical strategy for saving lives and protecting our community.

Finding Motivation to Buckle Up

We all know seat belts save lives, and most people know that wearing a seat belt is the law in West Virginia. As we discussed in a previous article, West Virginia became a primary enforcement state as of 2014, which means West Virginia drivers can be pulled over solely for not wearing a seatbelt. However, for many, a $25 penalty for a seat belt violation may not be enough motivation to change behavior.  

Top 4 Reasons People Give for Not Buckling Up

Below are the most common justifications people gave for not buckling up and why those justifications are usually unfounded. Perhaps that might help you buckle up if you don’t already. I must admit #2 below has motivated me to wear seatbelts more often when riding in the backseat.

The airbag will save me.
Airbags are designed to work with seat belts, not replace them. In fact, the force of airbag deployment when not wearing a seatbelt can seriously injure or kill you.

I don’t need to wear a seat belt in the backseat.
Unbelted rear seat passengers have 11 times the risk of serious injury compared to those wearing a seatbelt and are more than 30 times more likely to be ejected from the vehicle. Therefore, remember to always buckle up when traveling in an Uber or Taxi.  

I’m not going far enough to get into a crash.
52% of crashes are found to occur less than 5 miles of home, and most fatal crashes happen within 25 miles from home.

I won’t be going fast enough to get injured.
Most fatal auto accidents occur at speeds of less than 40 mph.

National Rural Safety Innovation Program

The number of serious injuries and deaths on rural roads is disproportionately high compared to urban roads. In fact, the problem is so big that the NHTSA budgeted $15 million towards a National Rural Safety Innovation Program in 2008. Even though urban areas have a higher total number of collisions, crashes resulting in death were 2.6 times higher in rural areas like West Virginia than of all traffic deaths on urban roads.

Get a Free Consultation with a West Virginia Personal Injury Lawyer 

We hope this information helps keep you and your loved ones safe on West Virginia’s roadways. However, if you or they were injured in an auto accident that wasn’t your fault, we invite you to call one of our experienced injury attorneys at West Law Firm for a Free Consultation.

We will be happy to advise you of your options and let you know whether we think you need a lawyer — sometimes you don’t. Also, there’s no obligation and NO FEE unless and until we recover compensation for you.

Our toll-free number is 1-877-943-9378 (WEST), and we will come to you if that’s more convenient for you. At West Law Firm, we serve clients who have been wrongfully injured in car or trucking accidents, at work, on dangerous property, or by negligence anywhere in West Virginia, even if you live out of state.



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