While rural areas account for about 30% of the total miles traveled and only 19% of the population lives in rural areas, nearly half of all traffic fatalities occur in rural areas. Although this certainly shows a need to improve safety in rural areas, numerous constraints and resource limitations hinder current safety efforts. For example, in most states the vast majority of rural road mileage is owned and managed by local governments. The 2012 Census of Governments found a total of 3,031 counties, 19,522 municipalities, and 16,364 townships in the United States. Most are either partially or entirely rural. In addition, the Bureau of Indian Affairs recognizes 573 American Indian tribes and Alaska Native Villages in the U.S. The sheer number of rural jurisdictions makes it difficult to assure that programs aimed at improving rural transportation safety are effective in reaching all areas effectively and equitably. The large number of rural local government units vary considerably in the way they are organized, their legal authority, and the available financial and human resources. The vast rural highway mileage is another challenge: rural crashes are often very dispersed, with a considerable degree of randomness in crash locations. This makes it difficult to apply traditional crash reduction strategies that focus on "hot spots".
The objective of this research is to develop a behavioral safety toolkit that can help rural practitioners reduce the burden of traffic fatalities and serious injuries by applying Vision Zero and other techniques to: (1) identify effective methods for organizing multidisciplinary, inter-jurisdictional road safety groups to address the fragmentation and resources constraints of rural local governments; (2) reviewing knowledge of the cultural factors that affect road safety, and developing guidance on proven methods for addressing anti-safety attitudes and debunking rural road safety myths; (3) identifying best practices to address risky driving behaviors and developing successful techniques for influencing personal behaviors that contribute to rural crash risk reduction; and (4) recognizing that alcohol is a major factor in rural crashes, evaluating recent research on early interventions for alcohol use disorder(AUD), developing guidance to assist rural safety practitioners with de-stigmatizing AUD treatment, and identifying unconventional channels for distributing AUD treatment information through law enforcement or transportation agencies.