Traffic deaths soared last year despite millions of Americans staying home during the coronavirus pandemic and according to a new report, Black Americans suffered the most.
According to estimates from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) more that 38,600 people died in car accidents last year, the highest projected number since 2007, despite an almost 15% decline in miles traveled.
However, when broken down by race, the agency found a 23% increase in traffic deaths among Black Americans. Traffic safety advocates say the rise is concerning, but not surprising. With less traffic on the road, people tend to drive faster making roads and streets less safe for everyone including other drivers, pedestrians and cyclists and mopeds/motorcycles. Advocates added location was less of a factor in the rise.
“Same story, different day. That’s unfortunate,” Charles Brown, the head of urban planning and policy for Equitable Cities.
It’s no secret that the pandemic exposed stark inequities between races and incomes in the U.S. One of the biggest differences in race and income during the pandemic is how Americans work.
According to a study from the Economic Policy Group, fewer than one in five black workers and roughly one in six Hispanic workers can work from home. At the same time, 30% of white workers, 37% of Asian workers, and 31% of non-Hispanic or Latino workers can telecommute. Additionally, the study showed Only 9.2% of low-wage workers can work from home. More than 60% of higher-wage workers can telecommute.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, said the numbers are unacceptable and added President Joe Biden’s American Jobs Plan has allocated $10 billion toward efforts to reduce traffic accidents.
Even before the number were released, Buttigieg commented on the racial disparities in traffic deaths highlighting research from Smart Growth America, a transportation organization, showing between 2010 and 2019, Black Americans were killed by drivers at an 82% higher rate than White, non-Hispanic Americans,
— Secretary Pete Buttigieg (@SecretaryPete) March 24, 2021
One of the biggest reasons for the disparity is due to systemic racism, Black Americans have been displaced over the course of decades to build the Interstate Highway System which has led to worse traffic conditions and more traffic in minorities in Black neighborhoods.