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Thursday, June 20, 2024

Rising Epidemic: Addressing Traffic Fatalities Impacting HBCU Students

In the past month, several tragic incidents have occurred at HBCUs across the United States. Six HBCU students have lost their lives due to traffic accidents in this month alone. This alarming rate of traffic fatalities among our students has become an urgent concern, demanding immediate action.

As we continue mourning the loss of our HBCU students, and with Spring Fest approaching, we want to raise awareness about safe driving practices that prioritize student safety both on and off campus. By highlighting these issues, we hope to encourage policies supporting investments in transportation infrastructure and safety measures nationwide.

We urge you to join us in addressing this rising epidemic so that we can protect the lives of our HBCU students. This article is a tribute to the memory of Jayrick Washington, Khai Walker, Chazan Page, Xiomara Moore, Mohamed Samura, Thaduba Turay, and all the HBCU students impacted by traffic fatalities this year.

A recent report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that U.S. traffic deaths fell 3.6% last year, although nearly 41,000 people were killed on the nation’s roadways. While the overall estimate of traffic deaths may have decreased, fatal accidents among students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities have increased significantly.

A 2021 study by the Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that Black Americans were disproportionately affected by traffic-related deaths—and that these disparities in fatalities were larger than previous estimates show.

Published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine in June 2022, the study found that travel distances vary among racial/ethnic groups when walking, cycling, or driving—and when these differences in activity levels are taken into account, Black Americans had the highest traffic fatality rate per mile traveled and across all modes, followed by Hispanics, Whites, and Asians. These disparities were particularly stark for walking, cycling, and evening hours.

Research in traffic fatalities among Black Americans found:

  • Black people were more than twice as likely, for each mile walked, to be struck and killed by a vehicle as white pedestrians. 
  • About one-third of all traffic-related fatalities involve drunk drivers.
  • From 2015-2019, Black Americans had the second-highest per capita rate of hit-and-run pedestrian deaths.
  • In 2020, Black people represented the largest increase in traffic deaths last year than any other racial group, even as Americans drove less overall due to the pandemic, according to recently released data.
  • Pedestrian and cyclist injuries tend to be concentrated in poorer neighborhoods that have a larger share of Black and Hispanic residents. These neighborhoods share a history of under-investment in basic traffic safety measures such as streetlights, crosswalks and sidewalks, and an over-investment in automobile infrastructure meant to speed through people who do not live there. 

Traffic fatalities are becoming increasingly prevalent among Black Americans in the United States. To improve road safety, we must provide equitable resources and safety measures to those disproportionately affected. This inequality is a serious issue that can have fatal, social, and traumatic consequences, which Black Americans often experience interchangeably.

Join us by raising awareness around Black Americans impacted by the traffic death epidemic by supporting the following solutions:

  • Enforce speed limits, and add trees to provide visual cues for drivers to slow down.
  • Implement traffic calming measures in Black communities to reduce speeding and aggressive driving.
  • Implement sobriety checkpoints in Black communities to deter and catch drunk drivers.
  • Increase police enforcement of traffic laws to deter reckless driving behavior and catch drunk drivers.
  • Improve infrastructure in Black neighborhoods to make roads safer for pedestrians and cyclists.
  • Provide education and awareness campaigns on safe driving practices.
  • Promote public transportation options to reduce the number of cars on the road.
  • Address systemic issues such as racial profiling and discrimination in traffic stops to ensure fair treatment for Black drivers.
  • Invest in technology such as automated enforcement systems to improve road safety.

Other countries have shown that simple interventions can make a difference in reducing traffic fatalities. City planners need to acknowledge that pedestrians and cyclists should be able to move around safely in their own communities. Implementing measures such as traffic calming, bike lanes, and pedestrian crossings can help address the disproportionate impact of traffic accidents on Black Americans and create safer road environments for all.

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