Here at our Phoenix personal injury law firm, we often represent clients who were injured on the rural roads surrounding Phoenix. In 2012, 19 percent of the U.S. population lived in rural areas, but rural road fatalities accounted for 54 percent of all fatalities on our nation's highways. The U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration attempts to identify high risk rural roads (HRRR) and research ways to reduce fatalities. A new HRRR Special Rule was created under 23USC 148(g) that requires states to set aside a certain amount of funds for high risk rural roads if the HRRR fatality rate appears to be increasing.
Studies have indicated that the higher rate of fatal collisions on rural roads are due to many factors, but the most significant are:
Many rural roadways on both state and local levels lack clearly defined shoulders and clear zones that provide an area for recovery for vehicles veering off the roadway, which is the most prevalent category of crash on rural roads.
Drivers on rural roads tend to drive faster because there are fewer traffic signals and much lower congestion from other vehicles. Studies show that motorists in rural areas are less likely to wear seat belts and more likely to drive under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.
The “golden hour” following a roadway crash during which life-saving measures are crucial may be extended by the lack of witnesses to crashes, the distance emergency medical services must travel to the crash, and the increased distance to the nearest trauma center.
Rural areas have limited data, safety expertise and funding compared to urban areas. Communication between local governments and state Departments of Transportation is essential to eliminate the information, competence and financial deficits of rural towns and desert areas. In hope of reducing the fatality rate on rural roads, the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration has published the Manual for Selecting Safety Improvements on High Risk Rural Roads, which can be accessed on its Web site: http://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/hsip/hrrr/manual/.