Whether in a motor vehicle, on a bike or motorcycle or as a pedestrian, road and traffic safety remains a serious problem. Also, a major concern, these threats impact communities of color and historically underserved communities disproportionally, especially Black American and Native American populations.
New analytical solutions such as Safety View from GM Future Roads and INRIX can serve as critical tools for improving road safety. They provide not just a holistic view of road and traffic safety or risk factors across all roadways, but also the opportunity to understand and take into account equity issues.
Data increasingly provides a clearer picture of the problems related to the intersection of road safety and equity.
- Latest estimates from 2021 suggest a 16-year high in traffic fatalities, with increases in 44 states, as well as DC and Puerto Rico. Fatalities are up in multi-vehicle crashes, on urban roads, and involving pedestrians and cyclists, all compared to 2020.¹
- Fatalities among Black Americans increased by 23 percent between 2019 and 2020 compared to an overall increase of 7.2 percent.²
- People who are American Indian and Alaska Native have roadway fatality rates more than double the national rate on a per population basis.²
- Underserved communities face heightened safety risk: The 40 percent of counties with the highest poverty rates in 2019 experienced a fatality rate 35 percent higher than the national average on a per population basis.²
Working Toward Safer Roads for All
From the federal government to states, cities and local communities, many are working toward Vision Zero – a global goal of zero roadway/traffic fatalities and serious injuries – to ensure safety for all, including groups of people and communities that are disproportionally impacted.
At the federal level, the US DOT has adopted a National Roadway Safety Strategy³ rooted in the Safe System approach,⁴ “which designs a system to protect everyone by preventing crashes and ensuring that if they do occur, they do not result in serious injury or death.”
Central to this aim are efforts to restore and improve our nation’s transportation infrastructure, including the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law passed by Congress in 2021 and the new $6 billion Safe Streets and Roads for All program⁵, which seeks to encourage cities, counties, localities, and other communities to prioritize finding innovative solutions to address safety and equity, as well as climate considerations, to make roads safer via comprehensive action plans.
At the state and city level, government and transportation professionals have also committed to the Vision Zero and Safe System approaches. They’re adapting them to their own communities and are including more equity considerations in their actions plans.
For example, the Philadelphia Vision Zero Task Force conducted an equity analysis in 2020. Findings revealed that fatal and serious injury crashes were three times more likely to occur in areas where most residents live on low incomes and 30 percent more likely to occur to people of color. The city then took action. New approaches to address these inequities included neighborhood slow zones, automated speed safety cameras, pedestrian safety medians and protected bike lanes.
New analytical tools like Safety View can compare road data from millions of connected vehicles with Census demographics and more local data all in one, cloud-based solution application. They’re making it easier for local officials not just in Philadelphia but across the country to identify road safety challenges in distressed or areas with high minority populations. Plus, because the connected vehicle and other data that these platforms rely on is regularly updated, they can also be used to determine the effectiveness of safety projects down the road.
All people have an equal right to safe mobility, regardless of their race or where they live. Unfortunately, safety and equity issues remain intertwined in the United States. If the nation, states and cities are truly committed to Vision Zero, Safe Systems, and addressing and improving roadway safety in every community, advances in mobility data platforms – coupled with greater investment at all levels of government and the resolve of officials and safety advocates – are essential. Transportation professionals are welcome to learn more about how Safety View can help them to make their streets and communities safer for everyone by requesting a demo at Safety View | GM Future Roads.
1 NHTSA, “Newly Released Estimates Show Traffic Fatalities Reached a 16-Year High in 2021,” May 17, 2022.
2 U.S. Department of Transportation, “National Roadway Safety Strategy,” January 2022, page 7. https://www.transportation.gov/sites/dot.gov/files/2022-02/USDOT-National-Roadway-Safety-Strategy.pdf
3 U.S. Department of Transportation, “U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg Announces Comprehensive National Roadway Safety Strategy,” January 27, 2022
4 U.S. Department of Transportation, “What Is a Safe System Approach?” Last updated: Thursday, October 13, 2022, https://www.transportation.gov/NRSS/SafeSystem
5 U.S. Department of Transportation, “Safe Streets and Roads for All (SS4A) Grant Program,” last updated August 2, 2022, https://www.transportation.gov/grants/SS4A