Identification of differences between rural and urban safety cultures

Michael E. Rakauskas, Nicholas J. Ward, Susan G. Gerberich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

103 Scopus citations


The prevailing risk of traffic fatalities is much larger in rural areas compared to urban areas. A number of explanations have been offered to explain this including road design, emergency medical service proximity, and human factors. This research explored the potential contribution of rural driver attitudes that may underlie the increased fatal crash risk in rural environments. This analysis examined differences between rural and urban drivers in terms of self-reported risk taking for driving behaviors associated with fatal crashes and attitudes toward safety interventions using a large-scale survey. The results suggested that rural drivers engage in riskier behavior, such as not wearing seatbelts, because they have lower perceptions of the risks associated with such behaviors. Results also suggested that vehicle type (e.g., pickup trucks versus passenger vehicles) may be related to seatbelt compliance and frequency of driving under the influence of alcohol. Rural drivers perceived the utility of government-sponsored traffic safety interventions to be lower than their urban counterparts. This study provides insights into the role of the human factor in rural fatal crashes and provides policy suggestions for developing safety interventions that are designed with respect to the psychosocial factors that define the rural culture.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)931-937
Number of pages7
JournalAccident Analysis and Prevention
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2009

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors would like to acknowledge the support by the Minnesota Local Road Research Board (Contract No. 81655, Work Order 136), the Minnesota Department of Transportation, and the Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) Institute at the University of Minnesota. The authors would also like to acknowledge Bruce H. Alexander, Ph.D. for his assistance on this project. Preliminary results from this research were reported in Rakauskas and Ward (2007) .


  • Culture
  • Fatality factors
  • Rural
  • Safety interventions
  • Survey methodology
  • Traffic safety
  • Urban


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