People of Color More Likely to Die Just Walking Down the Road

According to a recent report, designing our streets to move vehicles rather than people, puts a significant burden on low income people and communities of color across this country.

The findings from Transportation for America’s new 2011 “Dangerous by Design” report are alarming:

Photo Courtesy Flickr User Emperor Collins

The share of pedestrian deaths among communities of color exceeds their share of the total population:

  • Non-Hispanic whites make up 68.3% of the U.S. population, but make up 56.6% of pedestrian deaths
  • African Americans make up 12.5% of the U.S. population, but make up 17.9% of pedestrian deaths
  • Latinos make up 13.9% of the U.S. population, but make up 18.5% of pedestrian deaths

The pedestrian death rate for people of color exceeds that of non-Hispanic whites.

  • For non-Hispanic whites, the death rate is 1.38 per 100,000 persons.
  • For Asians, the rate is 1.45 per 100,000 persons.
  • For Latinos, the rate is 2.23 per 100,000 persons — 62% greater than non-Hispanic whites.
  • For African Americans, the rate is 2.39 per 100,000 persons — 73% greater than non-Hispanic whites.

In the 234 U.S. counties where more than 1 in 5 families has a household income lower than the poverty level, the pedestrian fatality rate averages 2.91 per 100,000 persons — which is significantly greater the national rate of 1.6 per 100,000 persons.

What’s more, despite these statistics, in 2008, only two states spent any of their federal Highway Safety funding to improve the infrastructure for bicycling and walking.

It is clear that we need a new direction. We must do better for America. Right now, Congress is debating the surface transportation reauthorization – our nation’s blueprint for transportation policy and investment. To ensure a safe environment for Americans to walk and bicycle, the reauthorization should:

  • Provide dedicated funding toward improving the safety for people who walk and bicycle;
  • Ensure that states commit a fair share of resources toward creating environments that are safe for walking and bicycling;
  • Create complete networks of sidewalks, bicycle paths and trails, so that all people can travel safely throughout their community and the region; and
  • Adopt a complete streets policy, so that all of our nation’s roads provide for safe travel for pedestrians, bicyclists and public transportation users, not just drivers.

In addition to changing our policies, we must also target our resources toward low income people and communities of color, who are so often without safe streets and sidewalks to travel from home to work, school, and other daily needs.

Your voice is needed in the debate. Join the more than 80 national organizations in the Equity Caucus at Transportation for America that are calling on Congress to ensure that the next transportation bill creates healthy, safe, and equitable communities of opportunity for all Americans.

To learn more about how you can get involved in activities to advance a more equitable transportation policy for our nation, please visit:

3 Responses to “People of Color More Likely to Die Just Walking Down the Road”

  1. avatar

    People in power don't care about pedestrians. It's sad, and it's not right. Perhaps if more people decided to walk, like the people who do out of necessity, obesity wouldn't be such an issue in this country. Great article and frightening statistics. Thank you for sharing.

  2. avatar

    We have more than three decades of empirical data showing zip code is one of the best predictors of health and vulnerability. All pyhsical enviornments are not created equal. The built environment in many people of color neighborhoods are hazardous to the residents' health. Historically, the way we've spent federal transportatoin funds have contributed to this health disparity. This bias toward roads over transit is often referred to as "highway robbery." We have tons of facts, reports, and books, including my own, showing the economic, environmental and health benefits of clean, accessible, and affordable mass transit, compact walkable communities, and movement toward green energy. However, having the facts is not enough. Transportation still looms as a major civil rights and equity issue–an issue challened in Plessy v Ferguson in 1896. Who has mobility, who is left on the side of the road, and who is likely to get run over follow patterns that disproportionately place low-income and people of color at greater risk. This is unaccceptable and should be illegal.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.