Lonely Highways: The Role of Social Capital in Rural Traffic Safety

  • Published: Eastern Economic Journal 42(1), 2016: p 135-156
  • Authors: Nagler, M.G. & Ward, N.J.
  • Date Added: 08 Mar 2018
  • Last Update: 08 Mar 2018
  • Format: html


To examine whether social capital’s protective effects have equivalent force with respect to fatalities occurring on rural and urban roads.


The authors explore the potential mediating effects of specific crash types and contexts and of behavioural risk factors on the relative protective effect of social capital on rural and urban roads, using data from the United States for the period 1997–2006.

Key Findings:

  • The estimation of simultaneous equation systems of complementary traffic incident types on a panel of US states reveals a significantly lower protective effect on rural roads.

  • Potentially relevant differentials in crash-type/context exposure do not mediate this outcome.

  • It appears the relative prevalence of certain risk behaviours (e.g., speeding) skew rural environments toward crash situations where the critical safety factors are orthogonal to social capital influence.


Social capital; Trust; Rural culture; Risk behaviour; Driver care