Research Report Resources » Engineering » Safety Data » Rural/Urban Comparison of Traffic Fatalities: 2018 Data

Rural/Urban Comparison of Traffic Fatalities: 2018 Data

DOT HS 812 957

  • Posted: Friday May 1st, 2020
  • Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
  • Topic: Engineering
  • Sub-Topic: Safety Data


For this fact sheet, rural and urban boundaries are determined by the State highway departments and approved by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). The State highway departments use the boundaries decided by the Census Bureau.

Key Findings

  • Of the 36,560 motor vehicle traffic fatalities in 2018 there were 16,411 (45%) that occurred in rural areas, 19,498 (53%) that occurred in urban areas, and 651 (2%) that occurred in unknown areas.
  • According to the 2018 American Community Survey from the Census Bureau, an estimated 19 percent of the U.S. population lived in rural areas, and according to FHWA only 30 percent of the total vehicle miles traveled in 2018 were in rural areas. However, rural areas accounted for 45 percent of all traffic fatalities in 2018.
  • Rural traffic fatalities decreased by 15 percent from 19,323 in 2009 to 16,411 in 2018, whereas urban traffic fatalities increased by 34 percent from 14,501 in 2009 to 19,498 in 2018.
  • In 2018 the fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled was 2 times higher in rural areas than in urban areas (1.68 and 0.86, respectively).
  • Speeding-related fatalities occurred in almost equal proportions in rural and urban areas. Of the 16,411 rural traffic fatalities in 2018, there were 4,347 (26%) killed in speeding related crashes. Of the 19,498 urban traffic fatalities in 2018, there were 4,958 (25%) killed in speeding-related crashes.
  • Rural alcohol-impaired-driving fatalities decreased by 23 percent from 6,160 in 2009 to 4,714 in 2018, while urban alcohol impaired-driving fatalities increased by 23 percent from 4,579 in 2009 to 5,649 in 2018.
  • The 2018 National Occupant Protection Use Survey (NOPUS) observed that the seat belt use rate among front seat passenger vehicle occupants in urban areas was 89.4 percent, and rural occupants were observed to have a use rate of 90.1 percent.
  • Based on known restraint use in fatal crashes, 49 percent of rural passenger vehicle occupants killed in 2018 were unrestrained as compared to 45 percent of urban passenger vehicle occupants killed.

This fact sheet contains information on fatal motor vehicle crashes and fatalities, based on data
from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS). Refer to the end of this publication for more
information on FARS.