According to 2010 DUI statistics, a drunk driving crash in Oklahoma is roughly twice as likely to occur in a rural area because of poor or absent lighting. Forty percent of the alcohol-related fatalities in Oklahoma in 2010 occurred in rural areas with either poor lighting, or no lighting at all. Rural roads in poor condition and with a lack of lighting pose great risks to drivers.
In light of this disheartening information, it is encouraging that TRIP, a national non-profit transportation research group in Washington, D.C., has studied the issues regarding rural roads, and has put forth recommendations to fix the problems.
Rural America is considered to be the places with populations of 5,000 or greater outside of urban areas. In all, approximately 50 million people live in rural America, which is about 17% of the nation’s population. Rural America is home to a great deal of economic growth and productivity, especially in the agricultural and energy fields.
But safety on the roads throughout rural America presents concerns. The traffic fatalities on these roads occur at a rate three times higher than all other roads. Moreover, the traffic fatalities on rural roads are disproportionate compared to the amount of traffic that they carry. A report published by TRIP shows that Oklahoma’s rural roads are among the deadliest and deficient in the county.
In 2009, there were 444 non-interstate traffic deaths in Oklahoma out of 738 total traffic deaths. Thus, over half of the traffic deaths in Oklahoma occurred on non-interstate roads, with the majority being in rural areas. This statistic ranks Oklahoma 15th in terms of non-interstate traffic deaths in 2009, with Texas having the most with 1,490 out of 3,071 total.
Some of the factors that most likely contribute to the high fatality rates are the significant deficiencies present on rural roads. In Oklahoma, 30% of the rural roads were considered in poor condition in 2008, which was the third highest rating in the nation behind Vermont at 36% and Idaho at 31%. Rhode Island was also listed at 30%. Also, 23% of the rural roads in Oklahoma were rated as structurally deficient in 2010, also third highest in the nation, behind Pennsylvania at 28% and Rhode Island at 26%. Iowa was also listed at 23%.
To address these disturbing statistics and dangers, rural roads must be better maintained. At a minimum, they need better lighting. Until that can be accomplished, drivers should use extra care when driving on rural roads, especially at night.