Is driving on a rural road more risky?
Australian studies have found that young drivers are more likely to crash in urban areas; however, they are six times more likely to be severely injured when involved in a rural crash compared to an urban one. Recent research also shows rural drivers are more likely to have single vehicle crashes (where their car is the only vehicle involved) than crashes involving other vehicles.
Rural crashes may not be reported as frequently as urban crashes. Young driver crashes in rural areas are twice as likely to involve only the young driver’s car (and not other vehicles) so the driver may choose not to report the crash or resulting injuries, especially when minor.
Recent Australian research of over 20,000 new provisional drivers in New South Wales has found a higher level of particular crashes for rural compared to urban drivers. The young drivers were more likely to have a single vehicle crash when travelling on rural roads: up to 100% more likely. This risk remained even when known contributing factors such as driving experience, risky driving behaviour, driving exposure and socioeconomic status were taken into account. The increased risk was largely due to differences in road infrastructure (in particular the alignment of curved roads) in rural areas compared to urban ones and more speeding in the rural crashes. Single vehicle crashes are known to be more likely to result in more severe injuries compared to multiple vehicle crashes, which may explain why injuries result more often in rural crashes. The study findings suggest interventions to reduce these crashes should focus on improving road infrastructure and reducing speeding.
Other studies have shown that rural crashes resulting in death have been associated with drink-driving; greater travelling times; fatigue; road geometry; and speeding. At this stage, the best intervention to prevent rural road deaths and injuries in young people is unknown. Several options have been explored. For example, “intelligent speed adaptation technologies” which force drivers to reduce speed; greater police enforcement of speed limits; greater use of protective barriers; reduction of speed limits on undivided roads; using “event-triggered” videotaping of young drivers for review by parents; and increasing the minimum driving age.
Targeted interventions are needed for rural youth, who have fewer crashes that urban youth, but more severe and more single vehicle crashes. Explore interventions to improve road infrastructure and reduce speeding by young drivers on rural roads.
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