Even though the roads that we drive on nationwide are getting statistically safer, the improvements to motor vehicle safety have not been shared equally by everyone. A recent study has shown that people with a higher education have a lower probability of being involved in a fatal motor vehicle accident than people with less than a high school diploma. The study in the American Journal of Epidemiology finds that since 1995, most driving safety improvements have gone to people with higher education. And in the lower-educated group, the mortality rate is even increasing.
People over 25 years of age with a less than high school education had approximately 7.5 motor vehicle crash deaths per 100 million miles travelled in 2010. That is an almost 50% increase over the 5 deaths per 100 million miles travelled by the group just a couple of years earlier. This is an interesting anomaly as the death rates for all other educational levels started lower and declined from there over the time period of the study.
There are a number of factors that researchers site as being possible reasons for this disparity. One generalization is that people with a lesser education make less money and drive older cars. Newer, more expensive models come with safety features like side airbags, warning systems and rear-view cameras that can save lives.
The study also sites that people who live in poorer rural areas do not have the same access to high quality emergency trauma care that wealthier, highly-populated urban communities provide. Also, roads in poorer areas lack pedestrian safety features like crosswalks over multi-lane highways, stop signs, proper sidewalks and speed bumps to reduce speeds and this leads to higher pedestrian fatality rates in poorer communities. Pedestrian death rates are also about 2.5 times higher amongst the less educated than in more educated affluent areas.
When you think about the results of the study, that fact that people who are poorer enjoy fewer motor vehicle safety features than higher-educated, wealthier people do should come as no surprise to anyone. It’s doubtful that the poor soon be able to afford new Volvos, Suburbans or other later model vehicles that can cost upwards of $50,000. As a result of driving older vehicle with less safety features, the poor are at a greater risk of becoming motor vehicle accidents fatalities.