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Traffic Accident Study of TU Dortmund Shows: Cities Less Dangerous than Rural Regions

07 September 2009 Technische Universitaet Dortmund

Out of the city and into the countryside! For many people this idea is associated with a life away from the dangers of the brawly road traffic in the city. For concerned parents, road safety is an important factor in house hunting. They want their children to move freely and healthy outside.

Prof. Christian Holz-Rau and PD Joachim Scheiner from the Department of Transport Planning at the Faculty of Spatial Planning at TU Dortmund have been recalculating. Their surprising result: life in the city is much safer than in the countryside or in the suburbs. With their approach to analyze the data the scientists broke new ground: for Lower Saxony they analyzed the accident data taking account of the victim’s residence. “The place of the accident alone does not allow for a conclusion to be drawn with regard to the population in this place being more or less endangered” says Holz-Rau. After all, the inhabitants of the suburban areas do get into the cities: “One only has to think about commuters “.

Slight Accidents in the Cities, Serious Ones in the Countryside

The results of the analysis show that the risk of fatal accidents is already 40% higher for the population of the populous surrounding districts than for city inhabitants. For inhabitants of the countryside the risk to die in traffic is even twice up to three times as high. With regard to accidents with severe injuries the situation is similar but not so obvious. Accident statistics regard everybody as severely injured who needs in-patient treatment. In rural districts the risk of severe injuries is 70-100% higher than in cities.

For metropolitans only the risk of slight injuries is a little bit higher, compared to inhabitants of small communities. That is what Joachim Scheiner assumes to be the reason for the bad image of cities, because accidents with slight injuries happen many times as often as accidents with severe injuries or even fatalities. The high number of urban accident victims can be attributed to the great number of slightly injured people.

Children: Safer in the City

All age groups benefit from the higher safety in cities. Even for the youngest the risk of a fatal accident is three to five times as high in rural districts than in cities. High speed and risky passing maneuvers on country roads do not only affect the driver but all occupants of the car.

First Car Lets Risk for Rural Youth Explode

New drivers live dangerously. That’s no news, but it’s worth to look at the regional spread of accident victims. In case of young adults the accident risk literally explodes in rural areas and is 10-20 times as high as in cities. Joachim Scheiner explains the numbers: “In the countryside many young adults turning 18 have a car and are covering relatively long distances. That inevitably increases the risk to have an accident. And the fatal disco-trips at night also take a terrible toll.” Christian Holz-Rau adds to the sad balance for a life in the countryside. In the city young people rather leave their cars at home and use public transportation when they intend to drink alcohol.

As a consequence of this study, Christian Holz-Rau and Joachim Scheiner suggest “There might be many reasons to leave the city and move into the countryside. But with regard to traffic safety it is better to stay in the city. This especially applies to families”.

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