Maryland is known not only for its capital city, Baltimore, and its sprawling suburbs, but for its miles and miles of scenic farmland. As the suburbs continue to expand into the countryside, more drivers may encounter working farm vehicles travelling on Md.’s rural and secondary roads. This can create a potentially dangerous situation on narrow, winding rural roads with limited visibility.
The Maryland Farm Bureau reports that rural road safety is a growing concern as the suburbs spread into working farm communities — setting up a scenario of clashing lifestyles that could lead to auto and farm vehicle crashes. Commuters eager to get to work pulling up behind a slow-moving tractor or combine can get frustrated and try to pass when it’s not safe to do so … creating a potential deadly scenario for everyone on the road.
What’s more, a recent report by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) states that rural roads are disproportionately deadly, for a variety of reasons.
According to the GHSA, nearly half of the nation’s fatal crashes occur on rural roads, though only 19 percent of the population lives in rural communities. Between 2016 and 2020, more than 85,000 people died in rural road traffic accidents in the United States. Among the causes listed by the GHSA include “lack of safety resources, simpler roadway infrastructure, poor emergency medical services and to a significant extent, risky driver behaviors. The biggest culprits are not wearing a seat belt, impaired driving, speeding and distraction.”
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports 540 fatal motor vehicle accidents in Maryland in 2020. The breakdown of Maryland roadway types where these fatal crashes occurred is as follows:
- Rural interstate: 4
- Urban interstate: 52
- Freeway and expressway: 30
- Other principal arterial: 196
- Minor arterial: 125
- Collector: 91
- Local: 40
- Unknown: 2
While the public may be more aware of the dangers of fast-moving freeways and expressways, rural roads still pose a serious risk to Maryland motorists — with too many losing their lives every year. Add cumbersome, slow-moving farm vehicles (and sometime, farm animals) into the mix … and our Maryland back roads are no place for anyone in a hurry. Drive defensively, be respectful of everyone on our roadways, and please, be careful out there.
Rural Road Safety
Maryland Farm Bureau, collected online Sept. 11, 2022
Rural Roads Are Disproportionately Deadly, New GHSA Study Finds
Governors Highway Safety Association, Sept. 1, 2022
Maryland Rural Road Safety Study
Maryland Soybean Board Sept. 2020
NHTSA Traffic Safety Facts : Annual Report Data
NHTSA updated: June 24, 2022