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I am a personal injury lawyer representing car crash victims throughout Georgia, and I have been writing about the surprising statistics from the 2008 Georgia Department of Transportation (“DOT”) report, “Crash Analysis, Statistics & Information”. Today we will be looking at what the report says about car crashes in rural counties in Georgia.

The report addressed roadway accidents in the five Atlanta Metropolitan counties (Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton and Gwinnett), the Atlanta Suburban counties, and the other metropolitan regions in Georgia. It defines rural counties as “all other counties”, which in Georgia is a whopping 117 counties. According to the report, the population in these counties grew by 7.57% over the five years between the two surveys.

According to the report, in 2000, 79,012 people had car accidents on rural Georgia roads, at a rate of 204.1 accidents per million vehicle miles driven on rural roads in Georgia. The number of car wrecks increased to 82,670 in 2006, a 4.63% increase. But in 2006, the rate of accidents per million vehicle miles had actually decreased to 201.0, an overall 1.52% decrease.

The number of personal injuries from car crashes on rural Georgia roads actually decreased, albeit only slightly, from 39,782 to 39,670, a decrease of .28%. The rate of injuries in car wrecks per million miles decreased by a significantly greater percentage. In 2000, there were 102.8 injuries per million miles driven on rural roads, and by 2006 that number had dropped to 96.4 injuries in car accidents. Overall, the rate of injuries in car accidents had dropped by a significant 6.14%.

The statistics about deaths on rural Georgia roads may surprise you, however. Georgia rural roads saw 701 deaths in car accidents 2000, and the number of fatalities increased to 757 by 2006. While 1.81 people died in car wrecks per million miles driven in 2000, 1.84 died per million miles driven in 2006. Thus, the number of deaths on Georgia roads increased by 7.99% from 2000 to 2006, and the rate of deaths per million vehicle miles went up 1.64%.

So while you are more likely to wreck in Atlanta, you are more likely to die in a wreck in rural Georgia. Given Atlanta’s traffic, it is easiest to understand why more people wreck? But why do more people die on Georgia’s rural roads?

According to DOT, the chief reason is the speed. While the posted speed limits may be the same, metro Atlanta traffic moves far more slowly than rural traffic because the clogged roads and traffic congestion slow everyone down. The traffic reporters in Atlanta jokingly talk about some of Atlanta’s major highways being “parking lots” during rush hour. The traffic explains why it is possible to have a fender bender on I-75, a road with a 55mph speed limit, at say, 5:30 in the afternoon on a workday.

DOT also notes another difference: in rural areas in Georgia, most roads have only two lanes, one in each direction. According to DOT, “Two-way roads are often narrow roads with no physical barrier or division separating oncoming traffic, sharp curves, limited visibility, little or no shoulder, and with frequent entering and exiting traffic.” Report at 9.