While coronavirus lockdown rules drastically cut the number of drivers on the road amid the global pandemic, traffic deaths surged in America in 2020 — and disproportionately so among Black people, according to newly released data.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimated earlier this month 38,680 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes last year. The figure marks the largest projected number of deaths since 2007.
White people suffered the most traffic deaths last year at 29,092, but the number increased by only 4% from the year prior. Meanwhile, the number of Black people killed in such crashes — 7,494 — climbed 23 percent from 2019, the largest increase in traffic deaths among racial groups, according to the administration’s report.
Fatalities among American Indians also grew 11%, and Asian and Pacific Islander deaths declined 29%.
The overall increase comes despite a 13.2% drop in miles traveled from 2019 to 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic forced most of the world indoors and limited travel for months on end.
In recent years, deaths among Black Americans had already been climbing, with a 16% surge between 2005 and 2019. In the same time period, traffic deaths for White people dropped 27.8%.
Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg in a statement provided to CNN by a National Highway called driving safety and safety for pedestrians a top priority.
“Last year’s traffic fatality rates and the racial disparities reflected in them are unacceptable. This reflects broader patterns of inequity in our country — and it underscores the urgent work we must undertake as a nation to make our roads safer for every American,” Buttigieg said in the statement.
Buttigieg also said that President Joe Biden’s American Jobs Plan calls for a $20 billion investment in safety, including $10 billion for safe streets, which would fund efforts to reduce accidents.
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