Motor vehicle deaths: a rural epidemic

J Trauma. 1993 Nov;35(5):717-9.


Objective: To determine the magnitude of the discrepancy in injury death rates between urban and rural counties and which types of injury deaths contribute most to this discrepancy.

Design: A review of Nebraska death certificates over the period 1985-1989 was undertaken. Counties were divided into four groups according to population. Group I: urban counties (n = 3); group II: counties with a town of greater than 10,000 (n = 9); group III: counties with a total population of greater than 10,000 (n = 19); group IV: counties with a total population of less than 10,000 (n = 62). Age-adjusted death rates for heart disease, cancer, cerebrovascular disease, pneumonia, and injury were tabulated. Injury deaths were further categorized by intentional injury (homicide, suicide), and unintentional injury (motor vehicle-related, falls, drownings, poisoning, farm machinery-related, choking, firearms-related, fire-related and burns).

Interventions: None.

Results: Age-adjusted death rates per 100,000 population (with 95% confidence intervals) in group IV were lower than in group I for heart disease: 209 (193.9-224.1) vs. 227.4 (216.3-238.5); cancer: 135.9 (123.7-148.1) vs. 176.3 (166.6-186.0); cerebrovascular disease: 39.9 (33.3-46.5) vs. 44.6 (39.7-49.5); pneumonia: 19.6 (15.0-24.2) vs. 23.4 (19.8-27.0); and intentional injury deaths: 13.3 (9.5-17.0) vs. 15.1 (12.2-18.0). However, age-adjusted unintentional injury death rates were 54.2% higher in group IV than in group I: 42.7 (35.9-49.5) vs. 27.7 (23.8-31.6). Motor vehicle-related death rates were 93% higher: 23.3 (18.2-28.4) vs. 12.1 (9.5-14.7); and farm machinery-related deaths were 1250% higher: 2.7 (1.0-4.4) vs. 0.2 (-0.1-0.5).

Conclusion: Age-adjusted unintentional injury death rates are higher in the rural counties of Nebraska, even though death rates for the four other leading causes of death (heart disease, cancer, cerebral vascular disease, and pneumonia) and intentional injury are lower. Although farm machinery-related deaths have the largest percentage difference between rural and urban counties, motor vehicle-related deaths are the major contributor to the unintentional injury death rate discrepancy in rural Nebraska.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Traffic / mortality*
  • Cause of Death
  • Cerebrovascular Disorders / mortality
  • Heart Diseases / mortality
  • Humans
  • Nebraska / epidemiology
  • Neoplasms / mortality
  • Pneumonia / mortality
  • Rural Health*
  • Urban Health
  • Wounds and Injuries / etiology
  • Wounds and Injuries / mortality*