Are Highways Safer Than Roads?

Published on Nov 22, 2021 at 8:44 am in Car Accidents.

View of highway

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) 2020 report on transportation statistics shows that about 95% of all transportation deaths and over 99% of transportation injuries come from driving accidents—far more than air, railroad, subway, mass rail transit, pipeline, and boat travel combined. If you regularly drive a motor vehicle, knowing what is the safest type of road to drive on can help you plan your commutes and travel as safely as possible.

In the following article we will look at what type of road is the safest, which roads are safest for motorcycles, and how safe Mississippi’s roads are for drivers. If you have further questions, reach out to our office to speak with an attorney who practices car accident law in Mississippi.

What Are the Safest Roads to Drive On?

Are highways safer than roads? In fact, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) refers to all roadways designed to be used for transportation by cars, trucks, motorcycles, and other ground-based motor vehicles as “highways.”

But most people use the term “highway” to describe what are also known as freeways, expressways, and interstates—generally, the major high-speed, multi-lane roadways accessible by on and off ramps. The term “road,” in contrast, usually means the town, city, and rural streets that intersect and are designed to be driven at slower speeds.

Highways and roads have very different traffic patterns. So is a highway or a road safer? Statistically, the odds of getting into an accident are higher on roads than on highways. U.S. DOT research repeatedly shows higher accident rates on roads than highways.

There are multiple factors that make highways safer than roads. One the main factors is the presence of intersections on roads but not highways. Improper navigation and poor driver decision-making at intersections leads to the highest number of traffic accidents. The following facts can provide a fuller picture describing why drivers on roads are at greater risk of collision:

  • Traffic is traveling at varying speeds in multiple directions.
  • Drivers are constantly making decisions and interacting with other vehicles on the road.
  • There are more distractions.
  • Drivers are often more likely to break traffic laws when there are more rules to follow.
  • Speeding is more dangerous on narrow, crowded streets with lower speed limits.
  • Vehicles are comparatively close to one another.
  • Many drivers are navigating, looking for a destination or parking spot, or otherwise distracted.
  • There are many objects that can be struck, such as lights, signs, and parked cars.
  • Changing traffic signals, varying speed limits, and one-way streets lead to more driver errors.
  • There is more danger of a hazard appearing suddenly, like a jogger, child, animal, or bicycle.
  • Anticipating the actions of other drivers in chaotic conditions is difficult.
  • Many drivers tend to feel safer on slower roads and give in to careless driving habits.
  • Vehicles traveling in opposite directions share a relatively narrow roadway.

In contrast, on a highway:

  • All cars are travelling in the same direction at relatively consistent and similar speeds.
  • Drivers continue on a steady path forward without the need to make many decisions.
  • It’s easier to anticipate the actions of other drivers.
  • There is generally more room between each vehicle.
  • Lanes are wider, well-marked, and provide isolated paths of travel.
  • There are no unexpected turns or cars pulling into traffic.
  • Merging areas are well-defined and can be anticipated.
  • Any opposing traffic is separated by a wide median.
  • There are no crosswalks or sidewalks, and very few pedestrians or bicyclists.

However, it’s important to keep in mind—the risk of accident may be lower on a highway, but when highway collisions do occur, they are more often fatal. Due to the high speed cars are usually travelling at the time of impact, the repercussions of a crash can be severe and deadly. A high number of highway accidents are caused by drunk drivers.

Are Highways or Roads Safer for Motorcycles?

Based on National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) research findings, over 90% of collisions between a motorcycle and a passenger vehicle occur on non-highway roads. In short, highways are safer for motorcyclists than roads. Motorcycle accidents most often occur with a larger car or truck. A smaller number of accidents involve only one motorcycle, and very few involve more than one motorcycle.

In addition to the conditions we’ve already discussed that make roads more dangerous than highways, there are factors specific to motorcyclists. When motorcyclists ride on the highway, they have the advantage of:

  • Smoother surfaces with less gravel and other slipping hazards
  • Fewer animals, pedestrians, and bicyclists entering the roadway
  • Less risk of standing water on the roadway
  • Less chance that they will not be seen and struck by a larger vehicle
  • Fewer dangerous turns, curves, corners, and inclines

In the case that you are involved in a collision on a road or highway, it’s important to be prepared. Try to keep an emergency safety kit on your motorcycle at all times. For more information, please see our blog about what to do in a motorcycle crash.

Is Driving in Mississippi Safe?

In 2019, Mississippi had the highest car accident death rate per 100,000 population. Impaired drinking and lack of seat belt use are two major factors contributing to the excessively high crash fatality rates our state suffers. The Mississippi Office of Highway Safety traffic safety reports state that seat belt use is lower at nighttime on all road types in Mississippi, and generally lower on roads than highways. The same report showed that Hinds, Harrison, and Jackson counties had the highest number of car accident fatalities. Like the majority of the country, most car accidents in Mississippi happen at intersections. We also have a few major interstates crossing our state that are the site of many accidents, including I-10, I-20, and I-55.

But we also have some of the most beautiful roads and highways in the country. The Mississippi Scenic Byways Program (MSBP) helps connect travelers with some of our state’s treasured natural resources. It’s our hope that these roads can be enjoyed safely by Mississippi residents and travelers alike.

We believe strongly that our role as car accident lawyers gives us a duty to work toward better road safety for everyone in our state. If you have been hurt in an auto accident, we encourage you to reach out to our office to schedule a consultation. We’ll begin with a no-obligation initial meeting to find out if we’re the right law firm for your case.

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