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Are Rural Roads Safer Than Busy Interstates in Wisconsin?

Wisconsin is home to over 115,000 miles of public roads, approximately 1,099 of which are part of the Interstate Highway network.

Although traffic on rural roads is typically slower and less busy, you may wonder whether rural roads are safer than interstate highways. Here’s everything you need to know about road safety statistics in the Badger State.

Yearly Crash Statistics

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) compiles a comprehensive tally of traffic accident data and statistics every year. They organize them by type, injury, and location.

According to 2020 WisDOT crash statistics, there were 115,694 traffic accidents, of which 23,747 were injury crashes (injured at least one driver or passenger), and 540 were fatal crashes (at least one driver or passenger killed).

One of the WisDOT crash statistics categories is crashes by type of road. The crash numbers for 2020 are:

  • 44,516 in urban city streets
  • 5,513 in rural city streets
  • 9,551 on town roads
  • 11,439 on county highways
  • 14,792 on urban state highways
  • 18,767 on rural state highways
  • 5,273 on urban interstates
  • 4,846 on rural interstates

Rural and urban interstates have the lowest yearly accidents. Urban city streets have the highest concentration, making up over 38% of all accidents in 2020.

Overall, all rural roads combined (rural city streets, town roads, county, and rural state highways) saw 45,270 accidents in 2020. That’s almost 4.5 times as many as all interstates combined (10,119).

Why Do Rural Roads See More Accidents?

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), despite carrying less than 50% of American automotive traffic, rural roads across the United States account for over half of all vehicular deaths.

The primary factors behind the high prevalence of vehicular accidents on rural roads are driver behavior, roadway environment, and vehicle types involved in accidents.

Driver behavior on rural roads

According to NHTSA statistics, drivers in rural areas are more likely to be involved in speeding-related fatalities than drivers on the interstates.

Drivers on rural roads are also more likely to be involved in head-on collisions. Varying road layouts explain these differences. Rural roads do not possess physical barriers between driving directions or the outside edges of the road, rarely feature more than one lane per direction, and have more curves and turns than highways.

Roadway environment

A 2020 USA Today report revealed that Wisconsin was the state with the third worst roads in the country, with over 81.7% of roadways considered to be in poor condition. Although poor road quality is prevalent across rural roadways and interstates, a 2010 Wisconsin Watch report revealed that Wisconsin residents consider their rural roads much worse than highways and interstates.

Poor-quality roads can cause significant damage to a vehicle’s tires, rims, alignment, suspension, and undercarriage, significantly increasing the risk of an accident.

Wisconsin is also unique for possessing one of the highest animal-vehicle collision rates, which frequently occur on rural roads. According to State Farm data, Wisconsin ranks as the sixth state with the highest likelihood of animal collisions.

Vehicle types and safety

Numerous vehicle types commonly found on rural roads cannot legally enter highways and interstates. This results in more significant speed variations and an increased likelihood of unsafe road conditions on rural routes.

Examples of vehicles typically prohibited from entering interstates:

  • Agricultural vehicles
  • Construction vehicles
  • Mopeds
  • Bicycles

Many of these vehicles differ significantly from the average passenger car or light truck. For instance, bicycles and mopeds are highly vulnerable to impacts from any direction, increasing the risk of a fatal accident. In contrast, agricultural vehicles are heavy, often exceed the width of a single lane, and can easily damage smaller vehicles.

Rural Roads vs. Interstates: Which is Safer?

Interstate highways in Wisconsin appear to be one of the safest parts of the state’s 115,000-mile road network. There are fewer risk and danger factors associated with interstate driving. Roads are in better condition, and vehicles typically found on interstate highways are safer.

However, remember that a traffic accident can happen anywhere. If you are involved in a car crash anywhere in the Badger State, your priority is to contact an experienced Wisconsin car accident attorney. We have the skills to help you win maximum compensation from the at-fault party.

Get Legal Help from an Experienced Car Crash Attorney

At Brian Hodgkiss Injury Lawyers, we understand how life-altering a car accident can be, from medical bills and related expenses to pain and suffering. Our team of knowledgeable car accident attorneys will fight on your behalf to help you obtain the settlement you deserve. Contact us today for a free case review.

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