The Unequal Impacts of Traffic Crashes

Rates of traffic deaths vary widely among racial and economic groups but continue to rise across the board.

1 minute read

August 25, 2022, 12:00 PM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

OVerturned vehicle with fire truck and firefighters assisting

Gorodenkoff / Car crash

Although car crashes might seem like “an equal-opportunity public health problem,” David Leonhardt, writing in the New York Times, highlights the stark inequalities among economic and racial groups as traffic deaths rise sharply across the country.

Although traffic death rates were steadily declining since the 1970s, they started growing again in 2015, partly due to the ubiquity of smartphones and, consequently, distracted driving. “The U.S. has also been less aggressive about cracking down on speeding than Britain and some other parts of Europe, and vehicles here tend to be larger.” Since the pandemic began, road deaths rose even more dramatically.

As to the reasons for the inequity in traffic deaths, Leonhardt writes, “Poorer people are more likely to drive older cars, which can lack safety features. Low-income neighborhoods are also much more likely to have high-speed roads running through them.” And while some Americans were able to work from home during the pandemic, “many blue-collar Americans kept driving, biking or walking to work.”

Whatever the reasons for the growth in crashes, there are many known, simple solutions that safety advocates have touted for decades. As Leonhardt explains, “Those answers include: stricter enforcement of speed limits, seatbelt mandates and drunken-driving laws; better designed roads, especially in poorer neighborhoods; more public transit; and further spread of safety features like automated braking.”

Tuesday, August 23, 2022 in The New York Times

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