The roads in California can be treacherous, particularly for African-American residents. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) study, Americans drove less due to the pandemic. Yet, there were an estimated 38,680 deaths on U.S. roads, which is the largest number since 2007. The NHTSA also cited a 14% jump in traffic fatalities per mile traveled and an overall 7.2% rise in fatalities over 2019. Those numbers are substantial, but the fatalities involving black people rose by a shocking 23%. This is the largest increase among racial groups.
Many factors contributed to the uneven numbers. According to an environmental engineering professor at the University of Connecticut, the reasons include:
“Black people tend to be overrepresented as walkers in this country,” he said. “This is not by choice. In many cases, Black folks cannot afford motor vehicles. And people that walk in this country tend to experience a much, much higher rate of traffic fatalities. We’re talking eight to 10 times more. It’s a perfect storm of a lot of horrible forces.”
Making a longstanding problem worse
In the last ten years, Black pedestrians are 82% more likely to get hit by autos. But the pandemic made matters worse:
- Drivers took advantage of fewer cars on the road and law enforcement’s reluctance to conduct traffic stops to travel at higher speeds – record numbers of tickets were issued nationally for speeds over 100 mph.
- There were often instances where drivers traveled well above the posted speed on surface roads with pedestrians crossing or walking alongside the roads.
- Many highways also pass through communities with higher percentages of Blacks and other people of color.
- Less infrastructure funding in Black communities also leads to less public transportation, outdated road design with fewer safety features and poor road maintenance.
One University of Nevada study was done before the pandemic in 2017, but it came to the unsettling conclusion that drivers are less likely to stop or slow down for Black pedestrians than White ones.
Everyone deserves justice
One bright spot in these disturbing trends is that the information highlights the essential need for change. While this will happen at a governmental or municipal level, pedestrians and others injured by negligent drivers in vehicles can file a lawsuit separate from traffic any traffic violations to hold the negligent driver accountable.