Many drivers need to leave local roads and take the highway when traveling to further away destinations, or may choose to take the highway simply to save time. Merging onto a highway can be nerve-wracking, especially if you don’t use one often. However, while many people assume that highways and interstates are more dangerous than local roads, this isn’t actually the case!

Several common factors give highways an advantage in safety over urban and rural roads. By learning what makes roads more dangerous, you can potentially avoid some of the more common types of crashes.

What Makes Highways Safer for Travel?

Highways are generally safer for vehicle travel than smaller rural roads or city streets. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were 4,414 fatal accidents on interstates in 2020. With 38,824 car crash deaths reported for 2020, highway accidents only comprised around 9% of deadly accidents.

  • Lack of intersections. Over 50% of fatal and injury-causing crashes in the United States happen at intersections. Since highways do not have intersections where cars must travel in opposing and perpendicular directions, there are less likely to be collisions.
  • Wider lanes. Highways have wide lanes to accommodate larger vehicles, such as semi-trucks. More space means drivers have more room to move their vehicles to avoid a collision.
  • Less speed variability. Federal laws provide speed limits for states to enact on various roadways. Most rural highways have a statutory speed limit of 70 mph. This reduces the risk of a crash or collision since all drivers are moving at roughly the same speed.
  • Standardized signs. Highways have standardized signs regulated by the Federal Highway Administration. The rules outlined in the Standard Highway Signs and Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices ensure motorists can see and recognize signage on the highway. This helps prevent distraction or confusion when driving, reducing potential accidents.
  • Better maintenance. The Federal Highway Administration (FWHA) and state governments must maintain interstates and local highways. The FHWA covers the upkeep and construction of federal roadways, so highways often have less debris, potholes, or structural issues than other roads.

Despite all these safety benefits, highways can still be dangerous due to negligent drivers who vastly exceed the speed limit or recklessly change lanes without signally. It’s important to drive cautiously on the highway and speak with a car accident attorney if you are involved in an accident due to someone else’s negligence.

Why are Local Roads More Dangerous?

The following factors can increase your chances of an accident on rural and city streets:

  • More intersections. NHTSA data shows that there were 8,758 fatal accidents at intersections in 2020. Due to the high number of intersections on local roads where cars are moving in multiple directions, there is an increased risk of a collision.
  • Less space to maneuver. Local roads are typically narrower than highway lanes, providing less room for drivers to maneuver their vehicles. Overcrowded streets can lead to aggressive driving or reduced time for making decisions. For example, driving during a city rush hour can increase your chances of being in an injury-causing accident by 40%, due to other drivers’ reckless driving behavior.
  • Speed limit variation. While highways have relatively consistent speeds, local roads may have several different posted speeds in a short span. With multiple speed limits in different areas, cars may move at varying speeds, increasing the risk of a collision.
  • Less maintenance. In Indiana, small town roads may not be repaired or cleared of snow as quickly as highways, leading to more danger from weather-related conditions such as ice or potholes. Rural municipalities also have different resources regarding funds, workers, and equipment provided than federal highways.

What to Do If You Get in an Auto Accident in Indiana

Though highways may generally be safer than local roads, you are at risk of an accident any time you get behind the wheel of a vehicle and onto a road you are sharing with other drivers.

If you have been involved in an accident that was not your fault, the Indianapolis auto accident lawyers at Wagner Reese can help.

Our lawyers have decades of experience fighting for car accident victims’ rights and have won millions in compensation for our clients. We will work hard on your behalf to investigate your accident and seek maximum compensation. Contact our team today to schedule a free case evaluation.