Dying In A Traffic Crash: It’s More Likely If You Are Black Or Indigenous

Dying In A Traffic Crash: It’s More Likely If You Are Black Or Indigenous

A new study that analyzed traffic fatality data by race and ethnicity for the five years from 2015 through 2019 found that crash deaths disproportionately affect certain groups of people.  

Black, Indigenous and some people of color, a group identified by the acronym BIPOC, die more frequently in road traffic collisions than some other groups.

The report, “An Analysis of Traffic Fatalities by Race and Ethnicity,” was released on Tuesday by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), a nonprofit organization representing state highway safety offices.

“Our nation’s historic inequalities have contributed to an unacceptable imbalance in traffic safety,” Jonathan Adkins, executive director of the safety association, said in a statement. “This problem didn’t happen overnight, and it won’t be fixed overnight – but we have to begin taking meaningful steps forward every day to make our roads safe for all people and communities.”

The safety association, Adkins added, “is focused on promoting racial justice and finding solutions that advance just results in the country’s behavioral highway safety programs.” 

The examination of fatality data conducted for the report confirmed that BIPOC are killed in traffic crashes at a higher rate than the U.S. average.

Other highlights from the report:

  • Compared with all other racial groups, American Indian/Alaskan Native people had a substantially higher per-capita rate of total traffic fatalities and rate of total traffic deaths, speeding-related fatalities, and pedestrian and bicyclist deaths. 
  • Blacks had the second highest rate of total traffic deaths, pedestrian traffic deaths and bicyclist traffic deaths.
  • White, Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander, Hispanic and Asian people had lower than average rates. 
  • Traffic fatality rates among white people exceeded those of BIPOC in motorcycle driver and passenger deaths.

“When interpreting the disproportionate representation of BIPOC in motor vehicle crashes and traffic fatalities, it must be recognized that ethnicity and race, to a certain degree, is intertwined with other factors that affect crash risk, such as socioeconomic status and overall investments in crash prevention where people live,” the report noted about possible contributing factors. “This includes roadway infrastructure, traffic enforcement, community engagement and traffic safety education. Also, the response time and the quality of emergency medical care varies across communities in such a way that these factors could affect fatality outcomes for crashes of similar severity and be intertwined with race. Inequities in the health care system may contribute to the over representation of BIPOC in fatal traffic crashes.”

Researchers for the Governors Highway Safety Association report identified a series of actions its members and communities can take to develop and implement highway safety programs that “advance just and equitable outcomes in traffic safety for all roadway users, regardless of race.”   

Some measures specifically focused on how to reduce crashes, injuries and deaths and to better help under served socioeconomic communities and those who have been most affected by race-related disparities in transportation.

These include: improving safety education and community outreach; ensuring diverse representation in government transportation leadership positions and on traffic safety groups that develop plans; and better planning and investment in infrastructure and safety countermeasures.

The report is part of the safety group‘s broader focus on equity, safety and improving relations between law enforcement and BIPOC communities. In September, for example, “amid a national discussion about social justice and the role of law enforcement in community safety,” it issued steps to fight racism in traffic enforcement to its members.  

Research and data analysis for the report was conducted by Richard Retting, former director of safety & research at Sam Schwartz Consulting.

 To read the full report, click here. Additional information about equity in traffic safety is available here

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