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The Dangers of Rural Road Crashes: Unique Challenges and Legal Considerations

For many Wisconsinites, traversing rural roads is a way of life, connecting them to work, recreation, and nearby towns. However, these quiet country byways harbor unique dangers often underestimated by drivers used to urban gridlock.

In 2021, 414 fatalities occurred on rural roads in Wisconsin, making up 67% of motor vehicle crash deaths. Rural areas pose a higher risk of accidents due to narrow lanes, scant lighting, limited guardrails, and long stretches of isolated terrain.

Learn about the dangers of rural roads in the state and how our Wisconsin auto accident lawyers at Brian Hodgkiss Injury Lawyers can help you file a claim after a crash.

The Perilous Paths of Rural Roads

Rural roads offer scenic views of Wisconsin’s countryside and ways to avoid congested urban traffic. However, their unique characteristics can cause more serious accidents and injuries in a crash.

  • Narrow Lanes and Limited Shoulders: Rural roads often have narrower lanes and minimal or no shoulders compared to urban highways. This leaves little room for error when avoiding obstacles or maneuvering during emergencies. The lack of space can make it difficult for drivers to stay on the road, especially when encountering oncoming traffic or unexpected obstacles.
  • Poor or No Lighting: Many rural roads lack streetlights or reflective road markers. This reduces visibility at low-light times such as dawn, dusk, or inclement weather, making it challenging to spot hazards such as oncoming vehicles, animals, or sudden turns. Drivers may have to rely solely on their headlights, which might not illuminate the road sufficiently and increase the risk of accidents.
  • Delayed Emergency Services: Rural areas have fewer hospitals and ambulance services readily available than urban locations. This can delay critical medical attention after a crash, potentially worsening injuries or leading to fatalities. One study found that the average response time for ambulances was 14.5 minutes in rural areas versus 7.0 in urban settings.

Common Culprits Behind Rural Road Tragedies

While rural roads carry inherent risks, driver-related factors can also contribute to crashes. Common reasons for rural accidents include:

  • Speeding: Open, less-policed stretches of rural roads can tempt drivers to exceed speed limits. Familiarity with these roads might lead local drivers to disregard speed limits, believing they know the terrain well enough to drive faster. However, higher speeds reduce reaction times and increase the likelihood of severe injuries or fatalities in the event of a crash.
  • Driver Fatigue: Long, monotonous drives through rural areas can lead to driver fatigue. The lack of stimulating scenery and the quietness of rural roads can cause drowsiness, slow reaction times, and impair decision-making abilities.
  • Wildlife Encounters: Rural roads often traverse areas with wildlife populations. Collisions with animals like deer are common and can cause severe vehicle damage and personal injury. Drivers who exit their vehicles to assess the damage can also be injured by oncoming vehicles that can’t see around sharp curves or in low-light stretches of road. 
  • Inadequate Road Maintenance: Rural roads frequently suffer from poor maintenance because of limited funding. Potholes, uneven surfaces, and lack of proper signage can create hazardous driving conditions. In winter, these issues are exacerbated by snow and ice, which are often not cleared as promptly as in urban areas.

Insurance and Compensation Challenges

Securing fair compensation can be complicated if you’re involved in a rural road crash.  For instance, if the accident occurs near a town or county border, you may have to deal with jurisdictional issues such as varying traffic laws, where to report the accident, or how to obtain a police report.

You may have to navigate insurance challenges, especially if the at-fault driver isn’t covered. This can mean filing with your uninsured motorist policy, which is required in Wisconsin to pay for medical bills, lost wages, and non-economic damages.

Wisconsin’s modified comparative negligence statute can also affect your claim. This law reduces your compensation in a personal injury case according to your percentage of fault. You can’t file a settlement claim if you are more than 51% liable for the crash, for instance, if you were speeding or driving under the influence.

Protect Your Rights After a Rural Crash

The beautiful scenery of Wisconsin’s rural roads conceals danger that is too often overlooked until tragedy strikes. If you have suffered injuries in a crash caused by another’s negligence on a rural route, get experienced legal representation from our team at Brian Hodgkiss Injury Lawyers to protect your rights and help you seek financial support.

Contact us for a free consultation today. We can review your case, discuss your legal options, and help you maximize your compensation award.

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