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Rural Transportation Statistics

Rural roads account for a significant proportion of total lane miles in the United States, and they play a significant role in our nation’s transportation system, safely moving people and goods to their destinations. However, rural areas face several transportation challenges relating to safety, usage, and infrastructure condition.

Graphic listing rural transportation statistics. 19% of Americans live in rural areas but 68% of our nation's total lane miles are in rural areas. Urban areas: 1,052 miles per 100,000 residents. Rural areas: 9,818 lane miles per 100,000 residents.
Sources: U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, Office of Highway Information Management, Highway Statistics, table HM-60, available at http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/policyinformation/statistics.cfm; United States Census Bureau, American Community Survey (ACS), 5-Year Estimates, 2018.

Safety

While only 19% of the U.S. population lives in rural areas, 46% of all roadway fatalities and 39% of all highway-rail grade crossing fatalities occur on rural roads, and the fatality rate on rural roads is 2.1 times higher than on urban roads.

The fatality rate per 100 million vehicle-miles traveled is 1.9 times greater in rural areas. Rural = 1.70 Urban = 0.86 . 45% of highway fatalities occur on rural roads. Rural = 16, 411 Urban = 19, 498 . 39% of fatalities at highway-rail crossings occur in rural areas. 80% of railroad crossings without active warning devices are found in rural areas.
Sources: U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, Annual Vehicle Distance Traveled in Miles and Related Data, 2017-2018; National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Fatality Analysis Reporting System, 2018.

Usage

Large volumes of freight either originate in rural areas or are transported through rural areas on the nation’s highways, railways, and inland waterways.

map of rural networks

Source: U.S. Department of Transportation, Bureau of Transportation Statistics, Freight Analysis Framework Version 4.4, May 2019.

Infrastructure Condition

The condition of our nation’s rural transportation infrastructure varies, but rural areas commonly face challenges in maintaining infrastructure in good condition.

map of closed or posted bridges in rural areas 2018

Sources: U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, National Bridge Inventory; Federal Highway Administration, Highway Statistics Report. 2017.
Last updated: Wednesday, March 18, 2020