Holiday Travel Alert: Be Cautious on NC Rural Roads

As we gear up for Thanksgiving and the year-end holiday travel season, our Durham car accident lawyers want to take a time-out to urge you and your loved ones to make safety a top priority.

Car on a road in a misty forest with its headlights on.Although we often hear about the awful wrecks that occur on our highways, a study by AAA Carolinas indicates that more traffic deaths in North Carolina occur on rural roads. Although rural roads accounted for just 0.6 percent of the vehicle miles traveled in 2009, they accounted for an outsized portion of the state’s traffic fatalities.

And a recent report by NPR indicated that of the nation’s approximately 37,250 annual traffic fatalities, nearly 60 percent occur on rural roads. In some states, more than 90 percent of car accident related deaths occur on rural roads. In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that drivers on rural roads die at a rate of 2.5 times higher per mile they travel than those on urban highways. In other words, those who travel in urban areas drive twice as many miles but suffer about half the number of fatal accidents.

Why is this?

For one thing, rural roads tend to be narrower. They may have lower shoulders, more curves, faded or non-existent road markers and street lights and far fewer police officers patrolling. This means people may be more likely to speed or take these routes if they are intoxicated – putting you and your family at risk.

The most dangerous rural road in the country has been identified as a stretch of lone highway in Utah. In the last 10 years, there have reportedly been more than 520 fatal accidents on that road. Of those, NPR reported:

  • 117 were at night;
  • 280 were during the day;
  • 260 were in clear weather conditions;
  • 84 were in poor weather conditions;
  • 9 involved crashes with animals;
  • 32 cases involved a DUI;
  • 46 involved driver fatigue;
  • 145 involved speeding;
  • 288 involved driving off the road.


These same sort of scenarios play out all over the country, including in North Carolina, and particularly over the holidays, when more vehicles tend to share the roads.

In North Carolina, about 1,355 people were killed in traffic accidents in 2009. While North Carolina is ranked the 18th most dangerous state for driving, South Carolina is in the top three.

With Thanksgiving coming up, the National Safety Council is projecting an estimated 451 traffic fatalities in the U.S. over that long weekend, starting at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 21 and ending at 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 25. Further, the council estimates there will be somewhere in the range of 48,300 traffic-related injuries during that same time frame.

The council bases this estimate on mathematic calculations from previous years’ fatalities. Since 2005, the actual traffic deaths during Thanksgiving weekend have ranged from between 605 and 401.

The average number of traffic deaths during the handful of most recent Thanksgiving holidays was about 10 percent higher than on a regular November or December day.

But even one is too many.

Although rural highway fatalities overall are down about 20 percent across the country over the last 10 years, the disparity between urban and rural highways remains.

So wherever your travel takes you this year, please use extreme caution.

If you’ve been injured, contact the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin for a free and confidential consultation. Call 1-866-900-7078.