If you’ve ever found yourself feeling nervous driving on a busy urban freeway, this may come as a surprise: rural highways are more dangerous. The Iowa Department of Transportation’s Scott Falb has seen the report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Falb says most fatalities occur on rural roads as compared with urban streets or highways, because speeds tend to be higher and with the traffic lighter drivers tend to be less “on guard” than they are on a city street.

Falb collects data for the DOT and says while Iowa’s a rural state, you can’t blame the higher percent of highway deaths on more traffic in rural areas. From the state’s latest seatbelt survey he says there’s evidence that over 30-percent of the fatalities occur on secondary roads in the state, though they have only about 21-percent of the miles driven in the state.

Falb says “There’re definitely more fatalities occurring than would be explained by the number of vehicles on those roadways.” The majority of Iowa’s roadway deaths happen on either rural highways, interstates, or county roads. That doesn’t mean you’re wrong to feel a bit nervous at times driving on crowded city streets or freeways.

Falb says there are good reasons to be concerned, and to be a sharper driver on city streets. He says, “If we were able magically to capture near-misses, we would definitely see the vast majority of those would occur in towns and cities.” Likewise, the vast majority of “property-damage” crashes happen in towns and cities, and Falb says even injury accidents are balanced between rural and urban more evenly than the fatalities are. Falb says drivers in towns and cities have lots of good reason to stay alert and watch out for those near-misses, though they also clearly could use more attention on the rural roads where attention may lag on a long drive.