New Report Finds Traffic Crash Fatalities Disproportionately Affect Black, Indigenous and People of Color

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 22, 2021

CONTACT: Adam Snider, 202-580-7930
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New data analysis of traffic fatalities by race and ethnicity reinforces urgent need to more equitably implement highway safety programs

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) today issued a new report that analyzed data for the five-year period 2015-2019 and found that traffic crash fatalities disproportionately affect Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC). This study, An Analysis of Traffic Fatalities by Race and Ethnicity, is the first national analysis of this topic in more than a decade and identifies actions State Highway Safety Offices (SHSOs), communities and their partners can take to advance just and equitable outcomes in traffic safety for all roadway users, regardless of race.

The GHSA data analysis confirmed that:

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

“Our nation’s historic inequalities have contributed to an unacceptable imbalance in traffic safety,” said GHSA Executive Director Jonathan Adkins. “GHSA is focused on promoting racial justice and finding solutions that advance just results in the country’s behavioral highway safety programs. 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.”

SHSOs are responsible for addressing speeding, impaired driving and other behavioral safety issues that contribute to traffic crashes, and work with their engineering counterparts to address the role of infrastructure in crashes. The report identifies actions states and communities can undertake when considering traffic enforcement, safety education and community outreach to better serve minority communities and reduce crashes, injuries and deaths for those who have been most affected by race-related disparities in transportation, including:

  • Prioritize planning and investment in infrastructure safety countermeasures in underserved/lower socioeconomic communities and neighborhoods that have suffered from years of bias and disinvestment.
     
  • Treat traffic crash involvement as a health disparity issue. Consider how public health approaches to other issues, including mental health and poverty, can inform traffic crash prevention countermeasures.
     
  • Ensure diverse representation in state/city government transportation leadership positions and on traffic safety groups tasked with developing and implementing state and municipal plans.
     
  • Develop new, research-based interventions that prevent traffic crashes before they occur and/or before enforcement activities are required.
     
  • Tailor and develop with BIPOC input safety education campaigns and outreach efforts that address the needs and culture of diverse communities.
     
  • Extensively engage with local BIPOC leadership to determine if and how an equitable traffic enforcement program can be implemented in their community.
     
  • Assess how current traffic enforcement approaches can exacerbate racial/socioeconomic issues and work with stakeholders to identify and implement solutions.

This initiative is part of a broader GHSA focus on equity and builds on the association’s September 2020 news release that outlined steps GHSA, the SHSOs and their partners can take to promote equitable traffic enforcement and more broadly address highway safety needs. GHSA is also conducting a separate assessment of state approaches to racial equity to identify and promote best practices and solutions.

At its 2021 Annual Meeting, GHSA will bring together national and state leaders early this fall in Denver to discuss steps the highway safety community can take to achieve greater equity in traffic enforcement and engagement at the first in-person national traffic safety conference since the start of the pandemic. GHSA will also hold a webinar in July on how to build trust and foster positive engagement between law enforcement and BIPOC communities.

Richard Retting, former Director of Safety & Research at Sam Schwartz Consulting, conducted the literature review and data analysis for this report. Review and input were provided by Sam Schwartz’s Moriah Richardson, Transportation Engineer; Hugh Smith, Senior Associate & Director of Community Outreach; and Shameka Turner, Outreach Liaison. Richardson, Smith, and Turner serve on Sam Schwartz’s Value Inclusion, Belonging, and Equity (VIBE) Council, which is tasked with integrating the principles of inclusion, belonging and equity across all dimensions of the firm’s work.

The full report, An Analysis of Traffic Fatalities by Race and Ethnicity, is available on the GHSA website. Additional information about equity in traffic safety is available here.

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About GHSA

The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) is a nonprofit association representing the highway safety offices of states, territories, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. GHSA provides leadership and representation for the states and territories to improve traffic safety, influence national policy, enhance program management and promote best practices. Its members are appointed by their Governors to administer federal and state highway safety funds and implement state highway safety plans. Visit ghsa.org for more information or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.