Objective: While it is known that motor vehicle crash (MVC) fatality rates are inversely related to population density, there has been no description of which crash variables are related to population density. The purpose of this study was to describe crash characteristics of fatal MVCs and to determine which crash characteristics are related to population density.
Design: This is a retrospective review of fatal accident reporting system (FARS) records. They represent four different population density regions over a 5-year period in a four-state midwest region.
Results: There were 10,932 people in 6,318 vehicles who were involved in 4,970 fatalities. Occupant fatality rates per 100,000 persons were inversely related to population density. The variables related to lower population density were more light and heavy truck types, more frequent alcohol use and higher levels of intoxication, more frequent crashes that are noncollisions on less heavily traveled roads, more frequent crashes on gravel surface types, more frequent occupant ejection, and delayed medical care.
Conclusion: Rural areas are not homogenous in terms of fatal MVC crash characteristics. By analyzing fatal MVC crash characteristics in regions with different population densities, many crash variables were found to be related to population density. By understanding which characteristics about fatal MVCs are related to population densities, different interventions could be targeted to different rural populations.