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Rural Automobile Accidents More Likely to Result in Death, Less Likely to Involve Seat Belt Use

Government highway safety officials indicate that rural automobile accidents are more likely to result in death, and that occupants are less likely to be wearing seat belts, when compared to those involved in accidents in urban counties.

Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released the findings in the agency’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report on September 21, highlighting how drivers and passengers involved in accidents in rural counties have lower seat belt use, and corresponding higher death rates.

The study was conducted by reviewing data submitted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), to identify passenger vehicle occupant deaths among adults ages over 18 years of older. The CDC compared the data to their Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) to estimate how often drivers and passengers used seat belts.

Researchers found a direct correlation between higher auto accident fatality rates in rural areas and a lack of seat belt use when compared to urban counties, which overall had higher seat belt usage rates.

Among the findings, researchers determined that the more rural the area, the higher the death rates for adult drivers and passengers. Several key findings of the research found for 2014, were death rates for adult drivers and passengers grew as the study areas became more rural.

When comparing the most urban counties to the most rural counties, rural counties were found to have significantly higher fatality rates per 100,000.

In the West, from 3.9 in the most urban counties to 40 in the most rural counties, in the South, from 6.8 in the most urban counties to 29.2 in the most rural counties, in the Midwest, from 5.3 is the most urban counties to 25.8 in the most rural counties, and in the Northeast, rates for urban counties were found to be around 3.5 while the urban counties were reportedly at 10.8

Overall, researchers found that 44.4 percent of urban drivers and passengers in fatal crashes were not wearing seat belts. However, that compared to  61.3 percent in the most rural counties. Self-reported seat belt use was found to be nearly 15 percent less in rural areas when compared to urban areas.

CDC’s Division of Unintentional Injury Prevention epidemiologist, Laurie Beck, M.P.H said understanding where seat belt use is lacking, and where death rates are rising, helps direct the efforts of direction for highway safety officials and law enforcement. Beck stated the information will help determine the best approach to reach zero traffic deaths.

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