|(Oregon Public Broadcasting photo)|
The study, prepared by the nonprofit traffic research group TRIP, shows that South Carolina, California, Kentucky, Mississippi and Montana are the top five states, respectively, with the deadliest rural roads. Researchers measured fatalities as a rate for every 100 million miles traveled on rural, non-interstate roads.
Some states, particularly in the West, have large populations that are heavily centered in cities, which leaves vast, sparsely populated rural areas. One such example is Nevada, which ranks sixth in the report. "Statistics can 'appear skewed when the majority of Nevada roads lie outside of urban areas,'" Nevada Transportation Department spokesman Tony Illia told Ben Botkin of the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
"Clark County (Las Vegas) now accounts for two-thirds of the state's population," Illia told Botkin. "As a result, one or two fatal crashes along rural roads can suggest a disproportionate trend. However, there is a great distance between major urban areas across the state, which covers a whopping 110,577 square miles. Nevada is the country’s seventh-largest state by real estate but ranks 42nd in density. Rural drivers are subsequently susceptible to weather, wildlife and fatigue, among other things."
The report also warned that the nation's rural transportation system needs improvements to boost safety and increase economic opportunities, Botkin writes.