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Thursday, October 1, 2015

"No smart car for you!"

The North Carolina legislature, controlled by Republicans who worry about things like health care death panels, just passed a death warrant for a lot of their constituents when they slapped a sales tax on auto repair. Now we have this data:


[T]he 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."It's true that there are big differences in the quality of the residential environments that people have in terms of their risks of accidental death as pedestrians," Harper says. 
The role of behavioral differences is murkier. Some studies show lower seat-belt use among the less-educated, but seat-belt use has also increased faster among that group over time, meaning socioeconomic differences there are narrowing. Data on alcohol use is also conflicting. 
The chart above, based on National Center for Health Statistics data used by the researchers, captures miles traveled not just by car, but also bus or other motor vehicles (the poor are more likely to use transit, while the wealthy travel more by private car). The fatalities, though, also include the deaths of pedestrians and cyclists struck in car crashes.In 1995, these death rates — adjusted for age, sex and race — were about 2.5 times higher for people at the bottom of the education spectrum than those at the top. By 2010, they were about 4.3 times higher. That means the inequality of traffic fatalities is getting worse, even as it looks nationwide as if our roads are getting safer.

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