The Texas A&M Transportation Institute’s Center for Transportation Safety (CTS) is investigating the reasons why two distinct population groups — Hispanics and U.S. military personnel — are experiencing above-average crash rates.
Each is a separate research initiative, and both projects are just getting underway as researchers gather crash data and begin looking for clues.
“We have seen significant reductions in crashes and traffic deaths overall,” CTS Director John Mounce explains. “However, some groups have not been included in these vast improvements. We’ve found two areas that I strongly believe we should investigate further.”
Data show that Hispanics have a disproportionate risk of dying or being injured in traffic crashes. So, CTS has begun a Latino Traffic Safety Initiative (LTSI) to study this complex problem in Texas and offer countermeasure approaches.
“In just nine years, the Hispanic population is expected to outnumber the non-Hispanic population in Texas,” says CTS Senior Research Scientist Katie Womack. “The more we
learn about the reasons for the lopsided crash statistics, the better head start we will have on making travel safer for what will soon be the majority population. Everyone will benefit as a result.”
Nationally, the figures are alarming:
- Motor-vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for Hispanics ages 1-34.
- Hispanic children ages 5-12 are 72 percent more likely to die in a motor-vehicle crash than non-Hispanic children and they are less likely to wear a restraint device.
- Hispanics are more likely to drive under the influence of alcohol or other drugs, and are more likely to be driving without a valid license.
The LTSI will first examine the Texas crash and fatality data. Do our state’s Hispanic figures reflect national statistics?
“We have a lot of questions about injuries and fatalities among the Latino population,” Womack points out. “What are the ages of the crash victims? Are more males or females killed and injured? What are the causes of the crashes? Were the occupants wearing safety belts or using child restraints? How big of a problem is impaired driving among Hispanics in Texas?”
Eventually, the goal of the LTSI is to determine if language barriers, education levels, socio-economic status and other cultural differences play a role in the crashes.
“We suspect that the Texas figures will show a disproportionate Hispanic fatality and injury rate similar to the national figures,” Womack predicts. “If they do, how do we best approach this problem?”
Womack says to accomplish the goal of the LTSI, a variety of methods will need to be employed — crash data analysis, focus groups, workshops and surveys. It is important to examine traffic safety from the Latino perspective to get a complete picture.
“This project is in the very beginning stages, and I foresee it being a long-term, multi-year task. It’s a very complex issue,” Womack says.