Rural Roads: Safe or Dangerous?

By Brennan Komelasky

“Here’s what happened to me.”
When I was in middle school, my brother had his own car and would go around and drive to
his friends’ places. Then, there was one night that I will remember for the rest of my life. I was sitting down and doing my homework when suddenly my parents got a call. The next thing I
know, I hear my parents begin to panic because my brother has gotten into an
accident. It’s all a blur after that, but I remember going with my parents and seeing
the Jeep my brother would usually drive a couple feet into the woods and my brother in the
ambulance with the most fear I’ve seen in his eyes. Later, after proper investigation and my
brother’s perspective, we found out that he had come up to the turn too fast and the gravel
caused the car to drift off the road. It was probably the most terrifying event that my family had
faced in a long time, not to mention that the car was totaled, and we had to deal with the
monetary problems that shortly followed.

“I’m not unique, here’s the problem.”

This isn’t an entirely unique set of events. In fact, it’s quite easy to find rural or simply unkept
roads across the United States. Studies have shown that at least 35% (4) of all roads within the
US are rural roads. This has many implications and many problems for people driving on these
roads. Rural roads simply aren’t like normal roads, and going from a paved to a dirt or gravel
road can cause problems for tires. There’s also the inherently dangerous design of most rural
roads. Some rural intersections don’t make it possible for drivers to be able to see traffic
coming in. (4) There are also stiff turns, no road markings, and smaller roads altogether. (4)
Many of these roads can have small hazards such as sharp rocks or potholes, things you might
not even know are there until it’s too late. (4) Because of all of these small difficulties, more
people crash on rural roads, just like my brother and he was lucky to be alive. 54% of people in
accidents on rural roads end in fatalities. My brother’s odds of dying during his accident were
slightly better than a coin flip, which is too close for many people. (5)

“Here’s a non-profit working on the problem”
However, it doesn’t need to stay that way at all. Outside of the government, there are interest
groups who care about communities and the dangers of driving. They attempt to raise money to
better those roads. Together for Safer Roads is a global non-profit organization looking to use
science, modern technology, and analysis to help improve traffic and lower the danger of roads
(3). Although you might find them more concerned about areas closer to cities, there is
another option. The National Center for Rural Road Safety is more focused on rural
roads and their dangers compared to TSR’s focus on traffic dangers. Donating to these groups
will help roads improve. Both organizations seek to help make roads safer and more suitable for
driving. TSR is partnered with many different companies, while the National Center for Rural
Road Safety puts out articles that hope to educate people on road safety and advocate for
better types of roads, such as roundabouts replacing normal intersections. The National Center
for Rural Road Safety even conducts studies on how better road design, such as finding out that
roundabouts reduce crashes by 75% (1).

“Here’s what you, the audience, can do”
There is a way to help improve our rural roads without having to donate all of our money to
various organizations or assume the government will eventually get to it. If you have permission
or it’s your own property, you could create things that could help drivers be safer or be more
aware of unknown dangers on the roads. When I was living in a community area, one of the
people of the community noticed that it was very difficult to see around one of the many
different turns that you had to go through. Almost all of the roads were rural because the
community was built on a mountain and the roads would swerve a lot as you went up it on top
of being steep and the hazards during winter. So this family bought a mirror and put it up on a tree where the major turn was. It was designed and positioned in such a way that you could see who was coming from the turn on both sides
since you normally couldn’t see the other side due to a hill, some rocks, and a lot of
branches. Small things like this could save people’s lives, and I encourage you to help your
community members out.


1.) About. National Center for Rural Road Safety. (2022, September 15). Retrieved October
2, 2022, from https://ruralsafetycenter.org/about/

2.) Anne Teigen, G. D. B. (n.d.). Traffic Safety on Rural Roads. Traffic safety on Rural
Roads. Retrieved October 2, 2022, from

3.) Home Page. Together For Safer Roads. (2022, June 24). Retrieved October 1, 2022, from

4.) Local and rural road safety briefing sheets. Safety. (2016). Retrieved October 1, 2022,
from https://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/local_rural/training/fhwasa14094/

5.) Liu, Litao & Dissanayake, Sundada. (2009). Factors Affecting Car Crash Severity on
Gravel Roads. Journal of Transportation Safety & Security. 1. 254-267.

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