Black pedestrian deaths a top concern
June marks the beginning of summer and the observance of National Safety Month. The California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) and Caltrans are calling on all drivers to prioritize safety and help raise awareness about current dangerous driving behavior and its disproportionate impact on Black communities in California and across the U.S.
According to the latest projections from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than 4,400 people were killed in traffic crashes in California in 2022, or 12 people every day. A disproportionate number of those deaths affect Black communities and people walking and cycling. People outside of vehicles do not have the same protections as people riding inside vehicles.
A recent study published by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that, on a national level, Black people experience a passenger vehicle fatality rate 73% higher than their white counterparts, with the highest overall traffic fatality rate per mile traveled and across all modes of transportation, including walking, cycling and driving. In California, Black pedestrians have a 65% higher fatality rate compared to White pedestrians.
In an era where screens dominate our attention, distractions behind the wheel have become an alarming issue. Using a phone to dial, talk or text doubles the risk of a driver getting into a crash. Sending or receiving a text message takes a driver’s eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds. In 2020, 3,142 Americans were killed in crashes involving distracted drivers.
Other dangerous driving behaviors like speeding have also become increasingly normalized. Whether it involves exceeding the posted speed limit, driving too fast for conditions or racing, speeding was a factor in 29% of all national traffic fatalities in 2021. In California, 1,509 people were killed in speeding-related crashes in 2021.
To address the dangers of distracted driving, speeding and the disproportionate impacts each dangerous behavior has on Black lives, the OTS and Caltrans launched a call-to-action campaign that aims to establish a strong safety culture in California. You can join the Go Safely Movement and become a traffic safety champion by taking a short Community Call to Action survey to share what issues you are experiencing in your everyday travels. Your answers will assist the OTS and Caltrans in strengthening connections with communities, providing access to resources, and promoting traffic safety across transportation systems.
• California has a hands-free cell phone law, which prohibits drivers from holding a phone or other electronic device while behind the wheel.
• Drivers under the age of 18 may not use any mobile communications device at all, whether hands-free or hand-held.
• If you need to make a call or send a text, pull over and park at a safe location.
• Be Work Zone Alert. When you see flashing amber lights ahead and you’re approaching a work zone, slow down and Move Over a lane if it is safe to do so. It’s the law.
• Avoid the temptation of using the phone while driving altogether. Put the phone in the glove box, trunk, or back seat; anywhere you cannot reach.
• Remember, there are other distractions: eating, grooming, reaching for something that fell on the floor, putting on or taking off clothing, deep conversations with passengers, or fussy children in the back seat. If you find yourself in any of these situations, find a quiet, safe place to park and address the distraction.
• Know and respect the speed limit. It’s not worth pushing the envelope to save a minute or two.
• Be aware of your surroundings: Look out for pedestrians, cyclists, and obstructions in the road, especially in hard-to-see conditions such as at night or in bad weather.
Work together to create safer roadways this National Safety Month and beyond. To learn more about the Go Safely Movement, visit gosafelyca.org/thegosafelymovement, and follow Go Safely on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @OTS_CA and @GoSafelyCA.