Traffic fatalities disproportionately affect communities of color, study shows

Issues of race and inequality are top-of-mind for many Americans right now, and according to a new study, traffic fatalities should be a part of the conversation too.

"There are some significant disparities among racial groups when it comes to the impact of traffic crashes," said Russ Martin. 

Martin is the senior director of policy and government relations for the Governors Highway Safety Association, a nonprofit representing the highway safety offices of states, territories, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.  

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The study, An Analysis of Traffic Fatalities by Race and Ethnicity, found that traffic crash fatalities disproportionately affect Black, indigenous communities, and people of color across the country. Researchers said the disparities are largely due to a lack of investment in some communities. 

So for example, Martin said some communities may not have as much infrastructure that keeps people safe, like sidewalks, he said there may not be enough enforcement of speeding or distracted driving laws, and Martin also added that underinvestment in emergency medicine could be a factor if it takes a long time for somebody to get to the hospital after a crash.

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"We see incredible racial disparities in traffic crashes, and the cause is most likely underinvestment. So we need to do a lot more work to get more resources, more tools, and more programs our for those communities to improve our overall traffic safety," Martin explained.

Researchers also said that community engagement must be a big part of turning things around.