Lower-income Americans tend to fare worse in car crashes

The Washington Post reports on a new study in the American Journal of Epidemiology supporting the conclusion that "The most disadvantaged are more likely — and have grown even more likely over time — to die in car crashes than people who are well-off." Indeed, "the inequality of traffic fatalities is getting worse, even as it looks nationwide as if our roads are getting safer."

Why? The Post explains:

The underlying issue here is not that a college degree makes you a better driver. Rather, the least-educated tend to live with a lot of other conditions that can make getting around more dangerous. They own cars that are older and have lower crash-test ratings. Those with less education are also likely to earn less and to have the money for fancy safety features such as side airbags, automatic warnings and rear cameras.

The number of trauma centers, the researchers point out, has also declined in poor and rural communities, which could affect the health care people have access to after a collision. And poor places suffer from other conditions that can make the roads themselves less safe. In many cities, poor communities lack crosswalks over major roads. The residents who live there may have less political power to fight for design improvements like stop signs, sidewalks and speed bumps. As a result, pedestrian fatalities in particular are higher in poor communities.

An important conclusion embedded in this study of rich and poor is that "fancy safety features" work. More of them should be standard — not just as a matter of auto safety, but to address a deadly collateral consequence of income inequality.

Read the Post story here and a link to the study it discusses here.

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