Geospatial Analysis of Rural Motor Vehicle Traffic Fatalities

…a new report from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration

“In recent years, on average about 44 percent of traffic fatalities occurred in urban areas. NHTSA’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) codes the functional classification of land use by a binary indicator, i.e., if the location is a rural or urban area, as defined by the United States Census Bureau. However, this information is not enough to determine the spatial spread of the fatali-ties in the rural areas, i.e., are the fatalities occurring in suburban, exurban, or the outlying rural areas. The focus of this report is to determine the extent of fatalities that occur in rural areas that are close to urban areas. Some of these communities in rural areas that are close to urban areas have significant commuting ties with these urban areas. It would be of interest to law enforcement and highway safety planners involved in rural highway safety initiatives to quantify how many traffic fatalities occur in rural areas that are close to urban areas.

“FARS has begun reporting latitude and longitude information recently that facilitates the type of geospatial analysis required to quantify fatalities that occur near urban areas as a function of distance from the urban boundaries. The distances (buffer distances) used in this spatial analysis are 2.5, 5.0, 7.5, and 10.0 miles.

“While 44 percent of all traffic fatalities occur in urban areas, the percentage increases to 63 percent in an area that also includes the rural area within 2.5 miles of the urban boundary. The percentage increases to 73 percent 5.0 miles out, 81 percent 7.5 miles out, and 86 percent 10 miles out. In summary, about three-quarters of all traffic fatalities in the Nation occurred in an area that includes all the urban areas along with the rural areas that are within 5 miles of the urban boundaries.”