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Published September 01, 2011, 10:17 PM

North Dakota rural traffic deaths rank near the top in the nation

Cass County, ND (WDAY TV) - A new report may have you thinking twice about traveling gravel. North Dakota has one of the highest fatality rates on those roads. One surprising reason: response time.

By: Travis Skonseng, WDAY

A new report may have you thinking twice about traveling gravel. North Dakota has one of the highest fatality rates on those roads. One surprising reason: response time.

A national transportation research group called TRIP released this new report. In it unsettling statistics. Among them, North Dakota ranks 10th in the nation for traffic deaths.

When emergencies strike, a minute can mean life or death.

Bob Klein – FM Ambulance Paramedic: “You want to save everybody.”

An alarming report shows in 2009 traffics death on North Dakota rural roads were five and a half times higher than all other roads. Of the 140 fatalities, 122 were on rural roads.

Bob Klein: “Maybe if you take the climate, the environment, and the area into account that might be a big part of the reason.”

Bob Klein has been a paramedic for 15 years. He knows firsthand what winter weather or flooded roads can do to response time.

Bob Klein: “To go on a 20 mile ambulance trip to a patient's house might be a 45 minute trip or an hour and a half trip.”

Jerry Raguse – Harwood Emergency Responder: “We have to pick and chose where we go.”

But the problem may worse. Fewer people are willing to give their time to respond to rural crashes. Jerry Raguse volunteers in Harwood.

Jerry Raguse: “If you get further away from a major city, a lot of squads are having that problem. They just can't find enough volunteers.”

Simply, fewer volunteers mean increased response times, leading to more fatalities.

Bob Klein: “To keep them up is going to be the issue. I've noticed ambulance services and QRU's are getting older. They're not getting younger and you need younger to keep going.”

Cass County has four ambulance and quick response units. As many as four emergency agencies, including life flight, respond to rural crashes. The county is being used as a model for other counties.

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