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Kansas Plans To Improve High-Risk Rural Road Safety

A man works a pavement lane marker on a rural road

Street safety typically focuses on stopping bad car accidents in big cities, but there needs to be room at the table for rural roads, too.

Almost half of the roughly 36,000 roadway fatalities reported annually in the U.S. occur on rural roads.

In 2019, the fatality crash rate on rural roads was almost twice as high as on urban ones. This is a huge concern for Kansas where 90% of our streets are in rural communities.

Kansas counties with the highest fatal crash rates include:

  • Chase County
  • Hamilton County
  • Chautauqua County
  • Meade County
  • Wichita County

Over the last five years or so, Sedgwick County, which includes Wichita, has reported the most fatalities due to car accidents with 14 deaths in 2019.

But things might hopefully get better soon. Rural roads are overdue for safety upgrades - and they just might get those improvements soon. A new rural road grant program is part of the federal $1.2 trillion infrastructure spending package.

Rural Road Risks

There are a lot of reasons why rural roads are so dangerous. The short answer is that inadequate roadway infrastructure and lack of nearby emergency medical help are driving up the crash fatality rate, according to PEW research.

In addition, rural roads can be dangerous because they typically have higher speeds, narrow shoulders, lots of twists and turns, and lack lighting. These problems can often be solved with clever engineering and money.

The scarcity of emergency medical attention is more challenging to address. In 2018, almost 60% of drivers in rural areas died on the way to hospitals compared with about 40% in urban areas.

Kansas Street Safety Projects

Kansas is one of just a few states putting serious resources to improve rural roads. The state may also receive some of the $300 million earmarked in the federal infrastructure bill for high-risk rural road safety programs.

In May, Gov. Kelly announced $8.5 million for 16 counties in need of rural road work. Roadways identified as targets for this money include:

  • Old US-50 (between Faun Road and US-75) in Coffey County
  • Road 4 and Avenue G intersection in Comanche County
  • Indigo Road in Marion County
  • 27th Avenue (From Overland Road to the north city limits of Canton) in McPherson County
  • C Road (From 20 Road north to K-96) in Ness County

The roadways were selected using the state's Department of Transportation (KDOT) systemic approach to rural road safety. KDOT studies where multiple crashes have occurred. Next, they look for common factors. They then propose improvements and seek similar Kansas roadways that could also benefit from safety upgrades.

Street Safety Upgrades

While every roadway is different, rural roads don't necessarily need complicated adjustments to improve safety. Among the methods Kansas uses to make roads more safe are:

  • Adding rumble strips and median barriers
  • Introducing new or increasing visibility of pavement markings
  • More lighting
  • Widen shoulders
  • Flatten slopes
  • Remove trees too close to the road

The efforts may be working. In 2016, there were about 207 severe crashes on Kansas rural roads. In 2018, the most recent information available, that number had dropped to 189.

Legal Help For Crash Victims

It's deeply concerning when remote communities with small populations produce about the same number of fatal crashes as cities and suburbs.

If you're in the Wichita area and you were injured or lost a loved one in a car accident, contact Warner Law Offices for a free case consultation. A member of our team can explain how the law applies to your situation, the value of your claim, and your legal options.

We are based in Wichita and are available 24/7. Our experienced Kansas car accident attorneys are ready to hear from you right now.

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