Traffic Safety in Communities of Color


Over the past half-century in the United States, medical advances, improvements in road and vehicle design, and traffic safety efforts have all helped in reducing traffic-related injury and death. However, research suggests that among the US population, certain ethnic groups, namely African Americans,* American Indians, and Latinos, continue to face higher traffic-related risk. Among all US ethnic groups, motor-vehicle injury is a leading contributor to unnecessary injury and premature death. Improving traffic safety outcomes among these groups could help reduce their overall health disparities.

This paper examines the available research on how traffic safety issues specifically affect higherrisk communities of color, demonstrates that significant disparities in traffic safety outcomes exist between these groups and whites, and explores possible reasons for these differences. The paper focuses on three traffic safety issues that are associated with poorer outcomes among these communities of color: seat belt use, impaired driving, and pedestrian safety.

This paper highlights major traffic safety needs within specific communities of color, and concludes that ongoing data collection and analysis are necessary to provide a clearer, more complete picture of the issue as well as to inform interventions and efforts targeted toward these communities.

More research is needed to understand past traffic safety successes (such as the decreases in impaired driving or increases in seat belt use that have occurred across ethnic groups) so that these successes can be extended. Similarly, evaluations of current interventions are greatly needed, particularly for comprehensive and longitudinal studies. Finally, there is also a need for research that distinguishes the effects of ethnicity versus the effects of socio economic status on traffic safety outcomes.

Publication date: 
November 18, 2003
Publication type: 
Technical Report