By Chuck Mai, AAA
Anybody who follows Oklahoma’s motor vehicle crash reports with any regularity knows that rural roads are more dangerous than urban ones.
I have a distinct desire to be around this old earth long enough to see the Chicago Cubs win the pennant, so traffic risks are things I pay particular attention to. It’s all about surviving driving, which is no mean trick. Traffic crashes are still the leading cause of death for those 25 and under in our state. Numero uno. In fact, far ahead of whatever’s in second, third and fourth places.
So, when Fred Storer of Bartlesville sent me a study he had done of Oklahoma roadway collisions, I was all ears. Using information from NHTSA, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Fred’s contention is that “Oklahoma’s county roads and state number highways are three times as dangerous as the balance of the state roads combined.”
He examined the 3,006 highway fatalities in Oklahoma for the five years 2007 through 2011. The results? Twenty-eight percent of them occurred on urban roads and 72 percent on rural roads. See Fred’s website, www.saferight-of-ways.org.
You have to ask yourself, “Why?” Why are so many more of us dying in collisions on rural roadways than on urban ones? The answers are many: narrower roadbeds, limited shoulders, lack of medians, inadequate lighting, speed, tight curves, older bridges, and as Fred says, too many hazards placed too near the roads, hazards such as mailboxes.
But what’s happening inside the vehicle to cause these things to be final factors, that one last element that causes the fatal crash? Alcohol, certainly, plays a role in many of these wrecks, as does fatigue. But probably the number one facilitator of fatal crashes is distractions: other passengers in the car or pickup, reaching for something in the glove compartment, fiddling with an iPod, eating, drinking, smoking – and using a cell phone to either talk or text.
We have it within our power and abilities to save our own lives and those of others on the highway, whether rural or urban. You know how, it’s just common sense – limit distractions, pay attention to the road, drive refreshed, avoid alcohol and buckle up. And encourage your loved ones to do likewise.