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Fatal motor vehicle crashes in rural and urban areas: decomposing rates into contributing factors
  1. C Zwerling1,
  2. C Peek-Asa1,
  3. P S Whitten1,
  4. S-W Choi1,
  5. N L Sprince1,
  6. M P Jones2
  1. 1University of Iowa, College of Public Health, Department of Occupational and Environmental Health, Iowa City, Iowa, USA
  2. 2University of Iowa, College of Public Health, Biostatistics, Iowa City, Iowa, USA
  1. Correspondence to:
 Craig Zwerling
 University of Iowa, College of Public Health, Department of Occupational and Environmental Health, 100 Oakdale Campus, #126 IREH, Iowa City, IA 52242-5000, USA;


Objectives: Motor vehicle crash fatality rates have been consistently higher in rural areas than in urban areas. However, the explanations for these differences are less clear. In this study the decomposition method was used to explore the factors associated with increased fatal crash involvement rates in rural communities.

Design: Using national databases, the fatal crash incidence density was decomposed into the product of three factors: the injury fatality rate, the crash injury rate, and the crash incidence density.

Results: As expected, the fatal crash incidence density was more than two times higher in rural than in urban areas. This was driven primarily by the injury fatality rate, which was almost three times higher in rural areas.

Conclusions: Further research should examine the relative roles of crash severity and the timely receipt of definitive medical care after a crash.

  • FARS, Fatality Analysis Reporting System
  • GES, General Estimates System
  • HPMS, Highway Performance Monitoring System
  • NHTS, National Household Travel Survey
  • NHTSA, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
  • motor vehicle crashes
  • rural
  • decomposition method

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