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Montana's Rural Traffic Fatality Rate Ninth Highest in Nation

Posted Date: 
September 1, 2011
Frank Moretti & Carolyn Bonifas, TRIP, A National Transportation Research Group

WASHINGTON, D.C.- America’s rural heartland is home to approximately 50 million people and its natural resources provide the primary source of the energy, food and fiber that supports the nation’s economy and way of life. But, according to a new report, the roads and bridges that serve and connect the nation’s rural areas face a number of significant challenges, including inadequate capacity to handle the growing levels of traffic and commerce, limited connectivity, the inability to accommodate growing freight travel, deteriorated road and bridge conditions, a lack of desirable safety features, and a traffic fatality rate far higher than all other roads and highways. The report, “Rural Connections: Challenges and Opportunities in America’s Heartland,” was released today by TRIP, a national non-profit transportation research group based in Washington, D.C. It defines Rural America as all places and people living outside the primary daily commuting zones of cities with 50,000 people or more.

  State Fatality
Rate Rural/
All Other
State Total Rural
State Percent
Rural Roads
in Poor
State Percent
1 SC 4.70/0.32 TX 1490 VT 36 PA 28
2 FL 3.47/0.98 CA 1164 ID 31 RI 26
3 RI 2.99/0.89 NC 907 OK 30 OK 23
4 AR 2.89/0.89 FL 906 RI 30 IA 23
5 CA 2.86/0.68 SC 791 HI 29 SD 21
6 TX 2.83/0.98 PA 611 KS 28 NE 19
7 KY 2.82/0.78 OH 601 WV 27 MO 18
8 AZ 2.78/0.98 KY 584 AR 23 ND 17
9 MT 2.76/1.14 MO 533 NH 21 MS 16
10 ND 2.75/0.48 GA 527 NM 21 HI 16
11 NC 2.74/0.43 NY 524 AK 20 NH 15
12 OK 2.71/0.96 TN 519 MO 20 ME 15
13 TN 2.68/0.92 MS 464 CT 19 LA 15
14 WV 2.62/1.21 AL 449 ME 19 NC 14
15 LA 2.57/1.49 OK 444 CA 18 NY 14
16 KS 2.50/0.57 AR 418 PA 17 MI 14
17 DE 2.41/0.79 VA 371 SD 17 WV 14
18 OR 2.34/0.53 MI 369 MI 16 SC 14
19 NV 2.33/0.98 IN 365 IL 16 CA 14
20 MO 2.31/0.75 WI 363 MS 15 NJ 13

Despite a recent decrease in the overall fatality rate on America’s roads, traffic crashes and fatalities on Montana’s rural roads remain disproportionately high, occurring at a rate nearly two and a half times higher than on all other roads. In 2009, Montana’s non-Interstate rural roads had a traffic fatality rate of 2.76 deaths for every 100 million vehicle miles of travel, compared to a fatality rate on all other roads of 1.14 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles of travel. Of the 221 traffic fatalities that occurred in Montana in 2009, 163 were on rural, non-Interstate roads. Inadequate roadway safety design, longer emergency vehicle response times and the higher speeds traveled on rural roads are factors in the higher traffic fatality rate.

“Narrow roads with no shoulders and steep slopes are a huge problem throughout rural Montana.  Rebuilding these state and county roads should be a top priority, but the funding just isn’t there to get the job done,” said Cary Hegreberg, executive director of the Montana Contractors Association.  “We need to find ways of addressing these funding shortfalls.”

“The safety and quality of life in America’s small communities and rural areas and the health of the nation’s economy ride on our rural transportation system.  This backbone of the heartland allows mobility and connectivity for millions of rural Americans and provides crucial links from farm to market, moves manufactured and energy products, and provides access to countless tourist and recreational destinations,” said Will Wilkins, executive director of TRIP.  “But, with long-term federal transportation legislation stuck in political gridlock in Washington, America’s rural communities and economies could face even higher unemployment and decline.  Funding the modernization of our rural transportation system will create jobs and help ensure long-term economic development and quality of life in rural America.”

According to the TRIP report, America must adopt transportation policies that will improve rural transportation connectivity, safety and conditions to provide the nation’s small communities and rural areas with the level of safe and efficient access that will support quality of life and enhance economic productivity. This can be done, in part, by modernizing and extending key routes to accommodate personal and commercial travel, improving public transit access to rural areas, implementing needed roadway safety improvements, improving emergency response times, and adequately funding state and local transportation programs to insure sufficient preservation and maintenance of rural transportation assets.


Frank Moretti, 202-262-0714 | Carolyn Bonifas, 703-801-9212 |