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Black individuals make up the largest number of pedestrian deaths

On Behalf of | Feb 2, 2022 | Uncategorized

New York City can be a dangerous place to walk, particularly when crossing the street. The Governor’s Highway Safety Association keeps track of motor vehicle deaths and injuries, and it found the numbers going up 50% between 2009 and 2019, then the pandemic saw rates and conditions worsen.

The year 2020, the most recent year of complete data, saw a 7.2% increase in the overall deaths and a 14.2% increase in rate when factoring in the fewer miles traveled by vehicles that year. These general numbers are cause for alarm, but jumps out in the report is that Black Americans made up 23% of all traffic fatalities, which is by most significant number when dividing the total by ethnic groups.

Many are pedestrians

Countless factors figure into the numbers, but pedestrian deaths dramatically drove up the numbers. “Black people tend to be overrepresented as walkers in this country,” said a University of Connecticut environmental engineer who spoke with NBC News. “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.”

Why the jump in 2020

Studies found that Black individuals were 82% likelier to be struck by a driver, but pandemic driving worsened matters in 2020. The reasons for the high numbers include:

  • Traffic speeds rose dramatically when the roads were less
  • Main traffic arteries often cut through neighborhoods that Black individuals and other people of color traditionally occupied.
  • These minority communities often have less infrastructure or reliable public transportation (even in New York), fewer safety upgrades and less road maintenance.

While the study is a few years old and conducted in Las Vegas, a 2017 University of Nevada study found that drivers were less likely to slow for Black pedestrians than White ones.

Time for this trend to stop

While traffic volumes are now near pre-pandemic levels, numerous reports show that drivers have not slowed back down. City, state and federal officials are aware of this trend are taking steps, but the fact is that drivers who are not intoxicated and don’t leave the scene of the collision are rarely punished with more than a slap on the wrist. This leaves victims or their families to hold negligent drivers accountable for their actions.


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