The nationwide lockdowns resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic had several unintended consequences, from toilet paper hoarding to mass unemployment. It also had a surprising effect on the dangers of the road. Instead of empty roads causing a decrease in traffic fatalities in 2020, they actually rose by 7%. People drove 265 billion fewer miles than normal, but almost 40,000 were killed in car accidents. Drivers, likely assuming open roads meant it was okay to relax their focus, participated in more careless and distracted driving, drunk driving and speeding. And Texas has been the country’s largest offender in car accidents, including wrong-way crashes, since 2017.
While reckless driving practices are a continued concern, there is an often-overlooked disparity in which one group of people are dying more than others in COVID-time motor vehicle crashes. According to a new federal analysis, black people are more at risk.
Statistics Show Roads Are More Dangerous for Black People
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that of the nearly 39,000 people killed in car wrecks in 2020, about 7,500 of them were Black – a 23% increase in that year alone. And this disturbing disproportion did not stem strictly from the pandemic. Even before it hit, Black people were dying in car accidents almost 25% more than Whites.
A study done from 2015-2019 by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) discovered that Blacks are killed at consistently higher rates than Whites, and the number at least doubles when it comes to pedestrians. Another report by Smart Growth America, a D.C.-based urban development advocacy group, found that Black pedestrians from 2010-2019 were a whopping 82% more likely than Whites to be hit by drivers. And the University of Nevada discovered that drivers are less likely to slow down for Black pedestrians.
Experts have long found that inequality in Black communities, just as in the number of Blacks dying from COVID-19, adversely affects nearly every aspect of their lives. These existing issues were only exacerbated by the pandemic, including traffic fatalities.
Various factors at play include more dangerous roads in low-income Black communities, closer to major highways and with lower-quality infrastructure; more Black people being “essential” workers that didn’t have the choice to stay home during lockdown; and more Black families who can’t afford a car, grocery delivery, and other conveniences and must walk or rely on public transportation.
As in the George Floyd case, racial injustice at traffic stops is also an increasingly large contributor. The GHSA analysis found that Black people are four times as likely as Whites to be killed in police vehicle pursuits, and countless studies have found that police stop Blacks while driving or even walking much more often than they stop Whites.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg announced that the Biden administration is proposing $20 billion worth of legislation aimed at reducing vehicle injuries and deaths. The bills would work toward initiatives such as lower speed limits and safer “complete streets” with added bike lanes and crosswalks.
“The pandemic illuminated issues that people have been ignoring,” said Smart Growth America President Calvin Gladney. “These are the same streets and the same roads that have always been there. If we have intentionality to get to racial equity and close the disparities, we can actually fix this.”
What To Do If You Are a Minority Involved in a Crash
The first thing anyone should do after experiencing a car accident is secure the scene and seek immediate medical attention if necessary. Then document the crash as best you can, get contact information from the other parties and witnesses, take pictures, and file a police report. Hang onto these and any medical records, so you have plenty of evidence to support you in a possible legal situation. And never admit fault before consulting a lawyer.
About 13,000 serious crashes a year occur in Texas. The pain and suffering involved in these wrecks are hard enough to deal with on their own, but if you or someone you love is a minority in a dangerous area, inherent racial disadvantages may very well be the cause. Your first instinct may be to let it go and focus on healing your injuries. Still, if they are serious and the fault is unclear, it’s worth seeking out a personal injury attorney who is also well-versed in discrimination to help you find justice.
The Cochran Firm Texas was founded on a mission of equal rights for everyone, no matter their race, income or status. Our passion for equality and years of experience in car accident claims is a winning combination. For more information or a free case evaluation, contact us online, call us at 1-800-THE-FIRM (1-800-843-3476), or use our online chat now.
At Cochran Texas, we understand that needing legal help can be scary. It doesn’t have to be. We are a trusted leader in the legal profession and in our community. We know you are more than a case number. We get to know you as a person. This allows us to offer a balanced and thoughtful approach to giving you the best possible legal representation. Our mission is to protect the legal rights of ALL people in our community. No matter your race, gender, background or income level you have a right to skilled legal help. Call us at 800-843-3476.