A recently published study in the Journal of Injury Prevention reveals that contrary to popular belief, cities are in many ways safer than rural areas. The researchers note that, “although variability among urban areas clearly exists, when urban areas were considered as a group, risk of serious injury resulting in death was approximately 20% lower than in the most rural areas of the country.” While the risk of homicide was greater in urban areas, many more people die more often from motor vehicle accidents: “the magnitude of homicide-related deaths, even in urban areas, is outweighed by the magnitude of unintentional injury deaths, particularly those resulting from motor vehicles. In fact, the rate of unintentional injury death is more than 15 times that of homicide among the entire population, with the risk resting heavily in rural areas such that the risk of unintentional injury death is 40% higher in the most rural counties compared with the most urban” [emphasis added]. More generally, the authors found that injuries caused by motor vehicle crashes were the leading cause of death across the entire population. Researchers conclude that “when considering all mechanisms of injury death as an overall metric of safety, large cities appear to be the safest counties in the United States, significantly safer than their rural counterparts.”
While differences exist among various subpopulations, and variables such as access to trauma care may complicate the results, this study suggests that land use and transportation patterns may influence risk of injury. Additionally, research like this illustrates that the reputation of urban areas as inherently unsafe places is not completely justified.