Study: Rural Drivers Riskier than Urban

According to a new University of Minnesota study, rural drivers--especially those behind the wheel of a pickup--are more complacent when it comes to common safety practices on the road than their urban counterparts. Researchers from UM Intelligent Transportation Systems Institute surveyed drivers in six Minnesota counties, three urban and three rural, and discovered that drivers in rural areas practiced riskier driving behaviors and were less aware of the danger in doing so. Rural drivers more frequently admitted to driving while under the influence and not using their seatbelt every time they drive. The worst offenders were rural pick-up drivers who were the least likely to wear their seatbelts, said Mick Rakauskas, a research fellow in the ITS Institute's HumanFIRST Program.

"The most interesting thing about the research is that people were willing to tell us the truth about their behaviors--that rural drivers aren't wearing their seatbelt and think that drunk driving isn't that dangerous, so education may help prevent crashes for these risk factors," Rakauskas said.

Minnesota crash data in rural areas back these findings. The researchers believe that rural drivers are more likely to have fatal crashes due to their decreased perception of the importance of safe driving. The data show that there are more crashes caused by drunk driving in rural areas and drivers wore their seatbelts less frequently in fatal and injury-causing crashes.

To further understand the findings, Rakauskas used the HumanFIRST Program's driving simulator. The simulator's car has a motion base that can be driven through a virtual environment--one rural and one urban--and allows the researchers to gauge how safely people drive. The researchers found that when projecting a rural virtual environment, all drivers had a more difficult time keeping the vehicle near the center of their lane, often edging close to the road boundaries. But when driving in an urban virtual environment, drivers seemed more cautious, especially older drivers who often had a more difficult time maintaining safe driving behavior.

While rural drivers may be riskier drivers, the results of this survey lend to some promising solutions to prevent crashes. By promoting safety with the teen drivers, educating drivers on potentially dangerous behaviors, and developing new ways to implement safety into rural infrastructures, many rural fatalities can be prevented, the researchers said. For a fully produced feature and an interview with Rakauskas, visit

Download Center

  • Safety Metrics Guide

    Is your company leveraging its safety data and analytics to maintain a safe workplace? With so much data available, where do you start? This downloadable guide will give you insight on helpful key performance indicators (KPIs) you should track for your safety program.

  • Job Hazard Analysis Guide

    This guide includes details on how to conduct a thorough Job Hazard Analysis, and it's based directly on an OSHA publication for conducting JHAs. Learn how to identify potential hazards associated with each task of a job and set controls to mitigate hazard risks.

  • A Guide to Practicing “New Safety”

    Learn from safety professionals from around the world as they share their perspectives on various “new views” of safety, including Safety Differently, Safety-II, No Safety, Human and Organizational Performance (HOP), Resilience Engineering, and more in this helpful guide.

  • Lone Worker Safety Guide

    As organizations digitalize and remote operations become more commonplace, the number of lone workers is on the rise. These employees are at increased risk for unaddressed workplace accidents or emergencies. This guide was created to help employers better understand common lone worker risks and solutions for lone worker risk mitigation and incident prevention.

  • EHS Software Buyer's Guide

    Learn the keys to staying organized, staying sharp, and staying one step ahead on all things safety. This buyer’s guide is designed for you to use in your search for the safety management solution that best suits your company’s needs.

  • Vector Solutions

Featured Whitepaper

OH&S Digital Edition

  • OHS Magazine Digital Edition - June 2022

    June 2022


      Corporate Safety Culture Is Workplace Culture
      Keeping Workers Safe from Heat-Related Illnesses & Injuries
      Should Employers Consider Oral Fluid Drug Testing?
      Addressing Physical Differences
    View This Issue