Urban traffic deaths in the US now exceed those on rural roads, with speed playing a critical factor, according to new research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

The study revealed fatalities on urban roads surged 34 per cent from 2010 to 2019, while those in rural areas fell ten per cent. Urban traffic deaths surpassed those in rural areas in 2016 and by 2019, 19,595 people were killed in urban locations compared to 16,340 in the countryside.

The AAA said the recent change was notable because, according to Federal Highway Administration statistics, more than 70 per cent of the four million miles of public-access roads in the United States are rural.

Yet while speeding occurs on all roads, urban roads and streets account for a disproportionate number of speeding-related fatalities.

“Many urban streets in metropolitan areas are busier, with a mix of road users such as drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists,” said Dr David Yang, executive director of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

“Add in speed, and these locations grow more dangerous. When navigating urban streets, every user needs to be careful, pay attention to road conditions and follow traffic laws.”

Now the AAA is urging transportation engineers and decision-makers to consider speed management and prioritize safety when setting speed limits.

The organisation said it was critical for urban roads and streets where vehicles and vulnerable road users mix.