National Academies Press: OpenBook

Highway Safety Behavioral Strategies for Rural Areas (2023)

Chapter: Introduction & Background

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Suggested Citation:"Introduction & Background." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Highway Safety Behavioral Strategies for Rural Areas. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27196.
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3 Introduction & Background Rural roads comprise approximately 70% of the U.S. road network, but only 19% of the population lives in rural areas (NHTSA, 2020), which means that there are more than nine times the lane-miles per 100,000 residents in rural versus urban areas. Because 46% of the crashes occur in rural areas, the risk of fatality or serious injury is two times higher on a mileage basis on rural than urban roads (NHTSA, 2020). Rural roads are unique for many reasons including varying terrain and road conditions, wildlife on the roadways, long distances, unfamiliar drivers due to tourism, and differing road user risk perception. This poses challenges for rural transportation practitioners who tend to have few resources and little funding, but many lane-miles to manage. Project Background In support moving toward zero roadway fatalities and serious injuries, improving traffic safety in rural areas must be prioritized. Local governments, responsible for the vast majority of rural road mileage, require a crash mitigation resource that is tailored to their needs and considers the differences in rural roads and rural road users. The objective of this project (BTS-15) was to develop a behavioral traffic safety countermeasure toolkit for highway safety stakeholders (e.g., tribal authorities, local government, law enforcement, emergency responders, engineers) to reduce the frequency and severity of motor vehicle crashes on rural roads. The countermeasure toolkit should be accessible and practical for use by partners with varying levels of traffic safety expertise. To accomplish the project objective, the research team developed a two-phase research approach. Phase I focused on defining “rural” (Task 1), Data Analysis (Task 2), identifying countermeasures through a literature review (Task 3), and documenting case studies (Task 4). Phase II focused on the creation of the countermeasure toolkit and toolkit training resources for highway safety partners. This report documents the Phase I and II methodologies, findings, and suggestions.

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Rural roads have a higher risk of fatality or serious injury than urban roads due to factors such as varying terrain, wildlife, and long distances between services.

BTSCRP Web-Only Document 4: Highway Safety Behavioral Strategies for Rural Areas, from TRB's Behavioral Transportation Safety Cooperative Research Program, documents the overall research effort that produced BTSCRP Research Report 8: Highway Safety Behavioral Strategies for Rural and Tribal Areas: A Guide. Supplemental to the document is a PowerPoint presentation that outlines the project.

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