Report: Racial Gap in Traffic Deaths Persists

Communities of color have significantly higher rates of traffic fatalities, according to federal research.

1 minute read

May 9, 2023, 5:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

New federal data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reveals “significant disparities” in traffic fatalities between racial and ethnic groups in the United States, according to an article by Dan Rosenbaum in Smart Cities Dive.

Research undertaken in 2022, the first of its kind to examine “traffic safety in the context of race and ethnicity,” found that traffic deaths per 100,000 varied from 10.92 for White people to 24.75 for American Indian or Alaska Native people. Pedestrian deaths showed even stronger disparities: “In 2018, the pedestrian fatality rate for American Indian or Alaska Native people was 3.42 times the rate for White people; for Black people, it was 1.97 times the rate for White people. Asian pedestrians died at slightly more than half the rate of White pedestrians.”

The NHTSA did not offer an answer for why these disparities exist, but infrastructure—or the lack thereof in historically disinvested neighborhoods—could be a factor.

Shannon Hughes, a deputy regional administrator for NHTSA, said reducing traffic fatalities starts with a “safe system approach” that acknowledges the potential for human error and focuses on safe infrastructure that minimizes risk for all road users. “DOT’s safe system approach calls not just for safer drivers and pedestrians, but for safer road and vehicle design, reduced speeds and better post-crash care.”

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