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Driving deaths come on rural roads

Going ‘over the river and through the woods’ might not be the best route to

grandma’s house this holiday season.

According to the Alabama Department of Public Safety, two-lane rural

highways tend to be the most dangerous in the state.

Included in the list of most dangerous roads are county roads and rural

two-lane state and U.S. highways, said Martha Earnhardt, a public safety

spokesperson.

“Virtually all of the county roads are going to be two-lane roads,”

Earnhardt said.

“Those roads are simply not engineered to accommodate

traffic like interstates, for example.”

Although more crashes tend to occur in urban areas, you’re more likely to be

killed when you head out into the country, Earnhardt indicated.

In 2004 thus far, there has been an increase in rural traffic deaths from

last year.

As of Thursday, 751 people had been killed in rural highway

crashes in Alabama.

That’s up from 663 deaths for the same period in 2003.

This year there have been 99 rural traffic deaths on Interstates, compared

to 142 deaths on U.S. highways, 196 on state highways and, finally, 314 on

county roads, Earnhardt said.

One reason for the high numbers is that crashes in rural areas tend to

involve higher speeds and competing speeds.

Competing speeds occur when someone is driving at a fairly low rate of speed

on their way home, for example.

There might be other drivers simply passing

through at a considerably higher rate of speed, increasing the risk of a

crash.

Drivers who find themselves on such roads should follow the speed limits and

keep aware of other drivers on the road, Earnhardt advised.

“There’s a reason there is a speed limit on different types of roadways,”

she said.

“You need to anticipate your traveling environment.

Also, give

yourself a little extra time.”

Earnhardt also advises motorists to drive sober and buckle up, as about 40

percent of traffic deaths involve alcohol and most people killed in rural

traffic crashes were not wearing a seatbelt.

“(Alcohol-related traffic deaths) are not accidental deaths,” she said.

“Those are preventable.”

Alabama has a seatbelt usage rate of about 79 percent.