Fatality Facts 2019Urban/rural comparison

Overview

Urban and rural areas have fundamentally different characteristics with regard to density of road networks, land use, and travel patterns. Consequently, the characteristics of fatal motor vehicle crashes differ between rural and urban areas. For example, pedestrian and bicyclist deaths and deaths at intersections are more prevalent in urban areas, whereas a larger proportion of passenger vehicle occupant deaths, large truck occupant deaths and deaths on high-speed roads occur in rural areas. Although 19 percent of people in the U.S. live in rural areas U.S. Census Bureau. 2012. 2010 Census urban and rural classification and urban area criteria. Available at: https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/geography/guidance/geo-areas/urban-rural/2010-urban-rural.html. Accessed May 15, 2019.and 30 percent of the vehicle miles traveled occur in rural areas, Federal Highway Administration. 2020. Highway statistics, 2019. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Transportation.almost half of crash deaths occur there.

The following facts are based on analysis of data from the U.S. Department of Transportation's Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS). In FARS, rural and urban boundaries are determined by state highway departments and approved by the Federal Highway Administration. Reliable information on rural and urban areas has been available in FARS since 1977.

Posted March 2021.

Vehicle types

In 2019, 70 percent of large truck occupant deaths, 68 percent of pickup occupant deaths, and 55 percent of SUV occupant deaths occurred in rural areas, whereas more than 70 percent of pedestrian and bicyclist deaths occurred in urban areas. Motorcyclists were more likely to die in urban than in rural areas.

Motor vehicle crash deaths by vehicle type and land use, 2019
Rural Urban Total*
Deaths % Deaths % Deaths %
Cars and minivans 6,034 49 6,363 51 12,420 100
Pickups 2,916 68 1,353 32 4,279 100
SUVs 2,961 55 2,357 44 5,342 100
Large trucks 473 70 205 30 679 100
Motorcycles 1,926 38 3,061 61 5,014 100
Pedestrians 1,091 18 5,070 82 6,205 100
Bicyclists 183 22 658 78 843 100
Total* 16,340 45 19,595 54 36,096 100

Crash types

In 2019, single-vehicle crashes accounted for 53 percent of crash deaths occurring in rural areas and 54 percent in urban areas.

Motor vehicle crash deaths by crash type and land use, 2019
Rural Urban Total*
Deaths % Deaths % Deaths %
Single-vehicle crashes 8,649 53 10,485 54 19,257 53
Multiple-vehicle crashes 7,691 47 9,110 46 16,839 47
Total 16,340 100 19,595 100 36,096 100

Where crashes occur

In 2019, crash deaths in rural areas were less likely to occur on interstates and freeways (14 percent compared with 19 percent) and on other arterial roads (24 percent compared with 59 percent) than crash deaths in urban areas and more likely to occur on collector roads (42 percent compared with 9 percent) and local roads (20 percent compared with 12 percent).

Motor vehicle crash deaths by road functional class and land use, 2019
Rural Urban Total*
Deaths % Deaths % Deaths %
Interstates and freeways 2,360 14 3,773 19 6,133 17
Arterial 3,913 24 11,578 59 15,491 43
Collector 6,809 42 1,773 9 8,582 24
Local 3,218 20 2,443 12 5,661 16
Total* 16,340 100 19,595 100 36,096 100

In 2019, 16 percent of crash deaths in rural areas occurred at intersections, compared with 33 percent in urban areas.

Motor vehicle crash deaths by junction type and land use, 2019
Rural Urban Total*
Deaths % Deaths % Deaths %
Intersection 2,541 16 6,458 33 9,020 25
Non-Intersection 13,799 84 13,137 67 27,076 75
Total* 16,340 100 19,595 100 36,096 100

In 2019, 71 percent of crash deaths in rural areas occurred on roads with speed limits of 55 mph or higher. By comparison, 29 percent of crash deaths in urban areas occurred on these roads.

Motor vehicle crash deaths by speed limit and land use, 2019
Rural Urban Total*
Deaths % Deaths % Deaths %
≤35 mph 1,387 8 5,972 30 7,423 21
40-50 mph 2,827 17 7,037 36 9,881 27
55+ mph 11,666 71 5,592 29 17,270 48
Total* 16,340 100 19,595 100 36,096 100

Speeding

There has been a general downward trend in the proportion of crash deaths involving speeding as a contributing factor in both rural and urban areas since 2010, with the proportion declining from 32 percent in 2010 to 27 percent in 2019 in rural areas, and from 31 percent in 2010 to 26 percent in 2019 in urban areas. Speeding is defined to include crashes in which the driver was issued a traffic citation for speeding or in which driver-related factors included driving too fast for conditions, racing, or exceeding the posted speed limit.

Motor vehicle crash deaths involving speeding as a contributing factor by land use, 2010-2019
Rural Urban
Speeding-related Not speeding-related Total Speeding-related Not speeding-related Total
Number % Number % Number % Number % Number % Number %
2010 5,832 32 12,257 68 18,089 100 4,585 31 10,074 69 14,659 100
2011 5,576 31 12,193 69 17,769 100 4,382 30 10,193 70 14,575 100
2012 5,756 31 12,611 69 18,367 100 4,559 30 10,812 70 15,371 100
2013 5,376 30 12,364 70 17,740 100 4,311 29 10,808 71 15,119 100
2014 4,905 29 11,886 71 16,791 100 4,367 27 11,550 73 15,917 100
2015 4,826 27 12,746 73 17,572 100 4,504 27 12,326 73 16,830 100
2016 5,116 28 13,205 72 18,321 100 5,150 27 14,207 73 19,357 100
2017 4,740 27 12,665 73 17,405 100 5,183 26 14,793 74 19,976 100
2018 4,341 27 11,982 73 16,323 100 5,212 26 15,196 74 20,408 100
2019 4,359 27 11,981 73 16,340 100 5,079 26 14,516 74 19,595 100

In 2019, on roads with speed limits of 55 mph or higher, speeding was a factor in similar proportions of crash deaths in rural (24 percent) and urban areas (25 percent). On roads with lower speed limits, speeding was more likely to be a factor in rural crash deaths.

Motor vehicle crash deaths involving speeding as a contributing factor by speed limit and land use, 2019
Rural Urban
Speeding-related Not speeding-related Total Speeding-related Not speeding-related Total
Deaths % Deaths % Deaths % Deaths % Deaths % Deaths %
≤35 mph 503 36 884 64 1,387 100 1,779 30 4,193 70 5,972 100
40-50 mph 945 33 1,882 67 2,827 100 1,660 24 5,377 76 7,037 100
55+ mph 2,809 24 8,857 76 11,666 100 1,406 25 4,186 75 5,592 100
Total* 4,359 27 11,981 73 16,340 100 5,079 26 14,516 74 19,595 100

Alcohol

From 1982 to 1994, the percentage of fatally injured drivers with BACs at or above 0.08 percent declined steadily from 49 percent in both rural and urban areas to 34 percent in rural areas and to 32 percent in urban areas. This percentage has declined more gradually since 1994 and was 27 percent in rural areas and 29 percent in urban areas in 2019.

In urban areas, the percentage of fatally injured pedestrians ages 16 and older with BACs at or above 0.08 percent has ranged from 33 to 40 percent since 1982. By comparison, in rural areas the percentage declined from 53 percent in 1982 to 30 percent in 2019, a reduction of 43 percent.

Percent distribution of fatally injured people with BACs ≥ 0.08 percent by type and land use, 1982-2019

Estimated number and percent of fatally injured people with BACs ≥ 0.08 percent by land use, 1982-2019
Rural Urban
Drivers Pedestrians (age ≥16) Drivers Pedestrians (age ≥16)
Deaths Estimated deaths with BACs ≥ 0.08 Deaths Estimated deaths with BACs ≥ 0.08 Deaths Estimated deaths with BACs ≥ 0.08 Deaths Estimated deaths with BACs ≥ 0.08
Number Number % Number Number % Number Number % Number Number %
1982 15,155 7,486 49 2,076 1,110 53 9,388 4,589 49 3,995 1,598 40
1983 14,958 7,122 48 1,922 1,016 53 9,137 4,404 48 3,760 1,507 40
1984 15,979 7,175 45 1,984 975 49 9,591 4,314 45 3,898 1,508 39
1985 15,610 6,611 42 1,815 882 49 9,711 4,072 42 3,845 1,447 38
1986 16,401 7,070 43 1,819 871 48 10,215 4,336 42 3,847 1,430 37
1987 16,776 6,996 42 1,774 813 46 10,035 4,055 40 3,894 1,391 36
1988 17,393 7,261 42 1,847 832 45 9,834 3,828 39 3,950 1,369 35
1989 16,606 6,701 40 1,632 758 46 9,767 3,929 40 4,000 1,459 36
1990 16,223 6,644 41 1,577 731 46 9,511 3,746 39 3,984 1,433 36
1991 15,285 6,182 40 1,460 667 46 8,615 3,290 38 3,476 1,255 36
1992 14,307 5,501 38 1,362 619 45 8,161 2,910 36 3,408 1,257 37
1993 14,795 5,368 36 1,404 609 43 8,189 2,910 36 3,398 1,279 38
1994 15,078 5,188 34 1,303 565 43 8,576 2,713 32 3,372 1,168 35
1995 15,469 5,436 35 1,403 600 43 8,795 2,830 32 3,408 1,204 35
1996 15,519 5,276 34 1,335 588 44 8,923 2,875 32 3,380 1,241 37
1997 16,008 5,127 32 1,385 541 39 8,635 2,710 31 3,276 1,110 34
1998 16,180 5,228 32 1,402 568 40 8,520 2,595 30 3,216 1,127 35
1999 16,721 5,321 32 1,316 534 41 8,462 2,573 30 3,033 1,126 37
2000 16,205 5,248 32 1,203 486 40 8,705 2,701 31 2,962 1,045 35
2001 16,646 5,356 32 1,297 513 40 9,186 2,885 31 3,107 1,067 34
2002 17,262 5,562 32 1,279 500 39 9,341 2,942 31 3,123 1,095 35
2003 16,795 5,232 31 1,141 453 40 9,892 3,101 31 3,180 1,117 35
2004 16,943 5,157 30 1,148 436 38 9,885 2,985 30 3,122 1,113 36
2005 16,693 5,225 31 1,121 434 39 10,599 3,218 30 3,360 1,139 34
2006 16,350 5,124 31 1,145 460 40 10,831 3,406 31 3,242 1,200 37
2007 16,098 5,182 32 1,142 473 41 10,412 3,414 33 3,189 1,129 35
2008 14,652 4,740 32 1,113 460 41 9,459 3,166 33 2,970 1,093 37
2009 13,472 4,405 33 1,052 403 38 8,331 2,794 34 2,763 1,001 36
2010 12,569 3,852 31 1,053 410 39 8,321 2,672 32 2,926 1,001 34
2011 12,498 3,873 31 1,083 436 40 8,229 2,628 32 3,100 1,116 36
2012 12,920 4,072 32 1,190 445 37 8,549 2,654 31 3,323 1,191 36
2013 12,405 3,830 31 1,199 463 39 8,523 2,712 32 3,305 1,137 34
2014 11,864 3,659 31 1,033 372 36 8,906 2,721 31 3,633 1,238 34
2015 12,322 3,385 27 1,137 393 35 9,388 2,729 29 3,871 1,318 34
2016 12,871 3,467 27 1,186 382 32 10,788 3,191 30 4,576 1,600 35
2017 12,487 3,416 27 1,097 344 31 11,231 3,232 29 4,701 1,546 33
2018 11,722 3,154 27 1,074 346 32 11,274 3,177 28 5,067 1,685 33
2019 11,713 3,218 27 1,040 308 30 10,813 3,115 29 4,919 1,615 33

Safety belt use

According to a national daytime observational survey of motorists in 2019, safety belt use among front seat occupants was 90 percent in rural areas and 91 percent in urban areas. National Center for Statistics and Analysis 2019. Seat belt use in 2019 — overall results. Report No. DOT HS-812-875. Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.Unrestrained vehicle occupants are more likely than restrained occupants to be fatally injured in a crash, so belt use is much lower among fatally injured occupants. In 2019, 48 percent of fatally injured passenger vehicle occupants 13 and older in rural areas and 49 percent in urban areas were belted.

Safety belt use among fatally injured passenger vehicle occupants 13 and older by land use, 2010-2019
Rural Urban
Belt used Unbelted Unknown Belt used Unbelted Unknown
Deaths % Deaths % Deaths % Deaths % Deaths % Deaths %
2010 5,701 43 6,709 51 801 6 3,825 46 3,598 43 882 11
2011 5,510 43 6,527 51 770 6 3,567 45 3,474 44 824 10
2012 5,643 43 6,669 51 786 6 3,749 46 3,529 43 866 11
2013 5,714 45 6,184 49 846 7 3,778 47 3,273 41 911 11
2014 5,565 46 5,871 48 729 6 4,031 48 3,382 41 932 11
2015 5,929 47 5,987 47 813 6 4,205 48 3,537 40 1,024 12
2016 6,183 47 6,232 47 825 6 4,740 48 4,063 41 1,130 11
2017 5,956 47 5,814 46 853 7 5,172 49 4,153 39 1,196 11
2018 5,535 47 5,512 47 793 7 5,166 49 4,217 40 1,148 11
2019 5,645 48 5,350 46 756 6 4,869 49 3,983 40 1,144 11