We already know that U.S. traffic deaths soared during the pandemic, despite fewer people driving fewer miles. Now a new report adds another layer onto the tragic figures: Black Americans accounted for a disproportionate impact of traffic fatalities during the pandemic.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimated earlier this month that 38,680 people died in motor vehicle crashes in 2020, the largest projected number of deaths since 2007, despite a 13.2% decrease in miles traveled from the prior year. When broken down along racial lines, white pedestrian deaths grew 4%, American Indian fatalities grew 11%, and Asian and Pacific Islander deaths declined 29%.
But NHTSA found the largest increase in deaths — 23% — among Black people in what appears to be a stark illustration of which populations could and could not afford to stay home throughout the pandemic.
The increased traffic fatalities among Black Americans during the pandemic continued a trend that predates the arrival of the novel coronavirus to the United States. Traffic deaths for Black Americans rose 16 percent from 2005 to 2019. During the same period, traffic deaths for white people fell 27.8 percent.
More data on the racial disparities in U.S. traffic fatalities can be found in a separate report by the Governors Highway Safety Association titled “An Analysis of Traffic Fatalities by Race and Ethnicity,” published on June 22, 2021.