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Blog category: Driving

Driving on Roads or Highways: Which is Most Dangerous?

3 min read

Car accidents are a part of modern life. With congested roadways, distracted driving, and faster cars, traffic fatalities and injury accidents are inevitable. You may assume that driving on our nation’s highways is more dangerous than driving on surface or local streets, but that’s not always the case.

A word on terminology: Technically, the Department of Transportation (DOT) uses the term “highway” to describe any roadway that’s built to carry any type of motor vehicle. But most of us consider highways to be synonymous with freeways, interstates, or expressways, that is, any multi-lane, high-speed roadway. By the same token, we tend to call the surface or local streets in towns and cities as “roads.”

Now that we’ve got the terminology straight, where are you safer driving — on the road or highway?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) analyzed accidents on multiple types of roadways — interstates, rural roads, urban surface streets, state highways, and US highways. The conclusion: traffic accidents are more frequent on roads. However, highway collisions cause more damage and loss of life due to higher speeds.

One-in-three fatalities happen as the result of a highway accident. California is the third most populated state with the most registered drivers in the country — over 30 million. More drivers on the road mean more accidents. And sadly, California leads the U.S. in fatal accidents.

Road Driving

The key factor that makes driving on city and town roads more dangerous are the intersections we must navigate. Driving defensively can be an effective safeguard. But due to poor decision-making, careless navigation, and a multitude of other factors, most collisions occur at intersections. Drivers and other road users — bikers, motorcyclists, and pedestrians — have a lot to contend with while trying to safely navigate their local roads. Below, we unpack a few of the reasons.

Driver Behavior:

  • Multiple distractions, including phone use, passengers, pedestrians
  • Going too fast on crowded streets
  • Ignoring posted signs, more driver error
  • Looking for parking spots/locating addresses
  • Making split-second decisions while anticipating others’ moves

Traffic and Hazards:

  • Vehicles close to one another on narrow streets
  • Traveling in multiple directions at different speeds
  • Changing traffic lights
  • Parked and double-parked cars
  • Pedestrian crossings
  • Children, animals, pedestrians, bicyclists
  • Construction, heavy machinery, blocked thoroughfares
  • Emergency vehicles
  • Trucks and busses

Traffic Rules and City Layout:

  • Narrow, heavily built-up areas
  • Traffic circles
  • One-way streets
  • More traffic rules to follow (or disobey)
  • Lower in-town speed limits not adhered to
  • Speeding more dangerous
  • Difficulty in anticipating the actions of other drivers in often chaotic conditions
  • Many drivers feel safer on slower roads so get careless
  • Vehicles traveling in opposite directions share a relatively narrow roadway.

Highway Driving

Hurtling down the highway at speeds of 60, 70, or more miles per hour may seem like the most dangerous activity in the world. Of course, it’s not the safest thing to do either. Freeway accidents — while statistically less frequent than road accidents — are more deadly.

But many factors make freeway driving safer overall. Generally, you’ll find:

  • Fewer distractions (outside of the vehicle)
  • Drivers heading straight forward, no turns
  • Fewer decisions to make
  • All vehicles heading in the same direction
  • Traveling at relatively consistent and similar speeds
  • No traffic lights
  • On- and off-ramps and merging areas well defined
  • Traffic in opposite-direction separated
  • Easier to anticipate other motorists’ actions
  • Wider lanes, more room
  • No parked and double-parked cars
  • No pedestrian crossings
  • No foot traffic or bicyclists to avoid

Safe Driving Saves Lives

Regardless of whether you’re running errands around town or cruising on the interstate, the number one cause of traffic deaths in the U.S. is distracted driving. Followed by driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. When you’re behind the wheel, pay attention, put your phone away, and follow the rules of the road. That way, everyone has a better chance of reaching their destination. Lastly, check with a Wawanesa agent to make sure your auto policy has all the coverage you need.

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The above content is for informational purposes only and is not a direct representation of coverages offered by Wawanesa or its policies. The information does not refer to any specific contract of insurance and does not modify any definitions, provisions, exclusions or limitations expressly stated in any contracts of insurance. All references within the above content are illustrative and may not apply to your situation. The terms and conditions of the actual insurance policy or policies involved in a claim are determinative as to whether an accident or other loss is covered. To understand the coverage under your current policy, please log into the account management platform to review your policy or contact an agent directly.

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