Oregon DOT Studies Impact of Race and Income on Road Safety

The findings of a recent memo highlight the disproportionate effects of unsafe road conditions on low-income people and BIPOC communities.

1 minute read

March 17, 2021, 8:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

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Oregon's Department of Transportation has released a technical memo that outlines the effects of race and income on road safety and "draws a line between injury and fatality rates of non-drivers and the racial, income and geographic makeup of crash victims," reports Jonathan Maus for Bike Portland.

The findings in "Pedestrian Injury and Social Equity" show that "places with a higher concentration of people of color and poverty are much more likely to suffer injury or death while walking." While just nearly a quarter of Oregon's population lives in a Census tract with a high percentage of low-income and BIPOC residents, about 40% of non-driver injuries take place in these areas, which are often characterized by a "'harsh' transportation environment" and unsafe conditions. Without a comprehensive statewide database for pedestrian safety infrastructure, the study was unable to analyze how the presence or absence of such infrastructure impacts injury rates, signaling a need for more comprehensive data collection as a first step toward understanding the state's transportation equity landscape.

The findings are nothing new to bike and pedestrian advocates who study the issue, but "now that ODOT’s own data aligns with existing research, this information should be used to inform investment decisions" and prioritize needs such as a statewide infrastructure database.

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