Road deaths leap for black Americans who couldn’t afford to stay home during Covid

The National Road Safety Administration valued earlier this month, 38,680 people died in motor vehicle crashes in 2020, the highest expected number of fatalities since 2007, despite a 13.2% decrease in kilometers driven compared to the last year. Racially broken down, white pedestrian deaths increased 4%, American Indian deaths increased 11%, and Asians and Pacific Islander deaths decreased 29%.

But NHTSA saw the largest increase in deaths – 23% – among blacks, which seems to be a stark illustration of populations who could and could not afford to stay at home throughout the pandemic.

Deaths of black Americans had already increased in recent years, with a 16% increase from 2005 to 2019, according to NHTSA data. During the same period, fatalities on the Route des Blancs fell 27.8%.

Road safety advocates told CNN Business on 2020 the increases are concerning but not surprising, and said that with fewer cars on the roads, people were going faster, making the roads less safe for drivers, passengers, pedestrians and cyclists. Where do Americans live and where they work were likely contributing factors to the death.

“Same story, different day. It’s unfortunate, ”so Charles Brown, who heads town planning and policy firm Equitable Cities, described his initial reaction to 2020 death data and the 23% increase in black deaths. .

“It told me who had to travel and who was allowed to work from home,” Eulois Cleckley, executive director of the Denver Department of Transportation, told CNN Business. “We have a lot of work to do to fix our infrastructure and make it much more secure.”

He said that 5% of Denver’s roads contribute to more than 50% of his deaths and that the deadliest roads are mostly in low-income areas mostly in the minority.

Cleckley and other transport experts said the pandemic had worsened long-standing inequalities and made them more glaring. Black Americans have always been the most affected by transportation-related impacts, according to Alex Karner, a professor at the University of Texas-Austin who studies the effects of transportation on the environment and health. He pointed to the Interstate Highway System, and said black people and low-income residents were generally the ones who were moved to build it.

Angie Schmitt, transportation consultant and author of “Right of Way,” a book about pedestrian fatalities in the United States, said she was disappointed not yet to see Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg comment on the 2020 deaths or racial disparity.

“We need a real revival in the United States”, Schmitt said. “Now is the right time for leaders to re-commit to security. What we are doing is not working very well.”

Following an investigation into Buttigieg’s apparent silence on the new data, an NHTSA spokesperson sent CNN Business a statement from Buttigieg calling security a top priority.

“Last year’s road fatality rates and the racial disparities reflected in them are unacceptable. It reflects broader patterns of inequity in our country – and it underscores the urgent work we must do as a nation. to make our roads safer for every American, ”Buttigieg said. in the statement.

Buttigieg also said that the US plan for President Joe Biden’s jobs included a $ 20 billion investment in safety, including $ 10 billion in safe streets, which would fund efforts to reduce accidents.

Even before the 2020 data, Buttigieg talked on racial disparities in pedestrian safety, highlighting research that has found it is much more dangerous for blacks, American Indians and Alaska Natives to be pedestrians. From 2010 to 2019, blacks were killed by drivers at an 82% higher rate than whites, non-Hispanic Americans, according to the Smart Growth America transport organization.
Several local transport leaders said they saw promising measures at the federal level. Keith Benjamin, director of the traffic and transportation department in Charleston, South Carolina, told CNN Business he was excited that Buttigieg is changing the criteria for grants this year to include racial equity and resilience to climate change.

He added that there are many simple and easy solutions that can be made at the local level to improve safety.

“What matters when someone enters the street that they have a safe crosswalk,” Benjamin said. “It is important that our design criteria are more than just an individual motor vehicle.”

The United States is the only industrialized country where road safety is deteriorating, according to Alex Engel, spokesperson for the National Association of City Transportation Officials. The United States, for example, has twice as many road fatalities as Canada, after adjusting for population, according to The data of the World Health Organization.

“This is a public health crisis that we don’t talk about or deal with as such,” said Tara Goddard, a Texas A&M professor who studies transportation planning and safety.

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