New data released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Governors Highway Safety Association revealed that Black and Indigenous road users are disproportionately affected by traffic violence. According to a recent analysis by StreetsBlog, GHSA research found that from 2015 to 2019, “per-capita traffic death rates for American Indian and Alaskan natives were more than two and a half times those of the population overall — and nearly three times those of White people across all modes.” The research also found that Black road users (a term that encompasses motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians) experience “the second highest rate” of per-capita traffic deaths, or roughly 18% more than the rest of the population.
A June report by the NHTSA, meanwhile, found that “deaths among Black road users surged 23 percent between 2019 and 2020.” StreetsBlog argues that this “shocking” increase in deaths reveals the unsafe conditions of roads in underserved communities, which “became even deadlier once traffic evaporated during the pandemic, and the drivers who remained were invited to speed even faster.” StreetsBlog notes that while past research has found disproportionate fatality rates among Indigenous and Black road users, the GHSA research is “the first broad fatality study in years” to expose the stark fatality rates across various demographic groups.
Two major reasons for these disparities, experts argue, are “the proliferation of dangerous auto-centric infrastructure and a lack of safe street investments around Native reservations and predominantly Black neighborhoods.” As the GHSA report notes, “slow emergency response times and a lack of access to follow-up health care in underserved communities” are also factors in the disparities in fatality rates, but the existing research leaves the degree of their responsibility unclear. StreetsBlog’s analysis goes on to argue that the studies expose massive policy failures when it comes to making roadways safe for demographic groups who are disproportionately affected by road violence.
More information on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Governors Highway Safety Association research into traffic violence is available via StreetsBlog, the NHTSA, and the GHSA.