The Department of Transport’s statistics do not look good: 50% of all deaths happen on rural roads. Despite only 25% of all driving being on rural roads. Some of the reasons behind this is that rural roads tend to be narrower, so you are more likely to be run off the road. It also means you are more likely to find a truck or van heading the other way a bit more of a challenge.
There’s often no center line and no traffic signs. There are inadequate preparations for snow and less likely to be a barrier for a railroad. There are more ditches, streams and so on. Even worse, the road is more likely to be flooded. There are also blind bends and blind dips. Even looking at the scenery can cause distraction.
According to the US Department of Transport, half of all non-highway roads are rated as between “fair and poor” and 13% rated as “poor,” which appears to be the lowest classification.
You are also more likely to encounter speeding or drunk drivers who assume the road to be empty. Then there’s agricultural machinery. Or cyclists. A tree too close to the road can be dangerous. There are problems like cows, sheep on the road.
Texas has the most rural deaths per capita whereas South Carolina ranks as the highest number of deaths as a percentage.
It could take decades to fix if it ever gets done, there is more than $200 billion missing in funding. Roads need to be widened, you need rails, lighting and so on.
Bridges may be a greater threat to life than just rural roads. 8% may not be fit for purpose or “structurally deficient” and not suitable for trucks or farm equipment. Over the past few years farmers have increased the amount of farming equipment but the quandary remains how to transport this equipment.
It’s not just farm equipment and trucks, it’s been a prevalent problem for school and college buses. The only solution seems to be smaller buses but again, the price of operation is the key.
So, what can these drivers do?
Either risk their lives or go totally out of their way. If they do travel out of their way it is inefficient and costly.
When the bridge is closed the road itself becomes less useful, so people who live on that road find the road isn’t repaired as often. So, the only solution is to have local residents pay for the bridge or have no transport network at all. If they can’t pay that may cause difficulty in itself with their neighbors.
Even when a bridge is rated fair it could still be prone to some deterioration given a few years, whether it is the suspension part of the bridge or the deck or roadway part of the bridge.
Just because a road is rural doesn’t mean it won’t have pique traffic times. Speeds are higher on rural roads which can disguise the true number of cars that pass a given stretch of road. When a couple new housing developments go into a large area road use can double at certain intersections.
The high crash rates in certain black spots is cause for concern and sometimes the only answer is to build another road but again this requires more money.
The connections between places are key, but the smaller roads are vital for some people too, even if it is a lesser proportion of society. Rural roads can be beautiful and connecting people who choose to live outside the hustle of city life to their jobs, schools, shopping and emergency services is worth doing. But we may have forgotten the old adage, anything worth doing is worth doing well.