On the Wrong Side of the Road: Addressing Racial Disparities in Pedestrian and Cyclist Accidents

This blog post was written by guest author John Mattiacci, who is an experienced personal injury lawyer.

Pedestrian and cyclist accidents are on the rise in the United States, and people of color are disproportionately impacted by these incidents. According to a recent report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), African American and Hispanic pedestrians were 60% more likely to be killed in traffic accidents than white pedestrians. The NHTSA has also found that African American and Hispanic cyclists
are more likely to be involved in accidents than white cyclists. These statistics are deeply troubling and highlight the urgent need for legal reforms to address the root causes of these disparities.

The Racial Disparities in Pedestrian and Cyclist Accidents

There are many factors that contribute to the racial disparities in pedestrian and cyclist accidents. One major factor is the quality of infrastructure in communities of color. Many low-income communities and communities of color lack safe sidewalks, crosswalks, and bike lanes, making it difficult for pedestrians and cyclists to travel safely. Additionally, many of these communities are located near highways and major thoroughfares, which
increases the risk of accidents.

Another factor is biased law enforcement. People of color are more likely to be stopped and searched by law enforcement, which can increase the risk of pedestrian and cyclist accidents. Furthermore, studies have shown that law enforcement is less likely to enforce traffic laws in communities of color, which can lead to more reckless driving and an increased risk of accidents.

The Legal Framework for Addressing Racial Disparities

The current legal framework for addressing pedestrian and cyclist accidents falls short in addressing racial disparities. Traffic laws are often vague or difficult to enforce, and law enforcement agencies have little incentive to prioritize pedestrian and cyclist safety. Furthermore, many states have outdated laws that do not take into account the unique challenges faced by pedestrians and cyclists.

There are several potential legal reforms that could address these disparities. First, traffic laws could be revised to better protect pedestrians and cyclists. This could include stronger penalties for reckless driving, more comprehensive driver education programs, and increased enforcement of existing traffic laws.

Second, law enforcement agencies could be held accountable for addressing
pedestrian and cyclist safety. This could include requiring law enforcement agencies to collect data on pedestrian and cyclist accidents and to prioritize enforcement in communities of color.

Case Studies: The Human Cost of Racial Disparities

The impact of these disparities can be devastating for the individuals and families involved. In 2017, two African American women were struck and killed by a driver while crossing a busy intersection in a low-income neighborhood in Chicago. The driver had a history of reckless driving and had been cited for multiple traffic violations, but had never faced serious consequences. The families of the victims filed a lawsuit against the
driver and the city of Chicago, arguing that the city had failed to provide adequate infrastructure and enforcement to protect pedestrians in their community.

The Role Personal Injury Attorneys Can Play In Addressing Racial Disparities

Personal injury attorneys have a unique role to play in addressing racial disparities in pedestrian and cyclist accidents. By representing victims of accidents and advocating for legal reforms, attorneys can help to bring attention to this issue and hold negligent drivers and government agencies accountable.

Attorneys can also partner with community organizations to advocate for safer streets and better infrastructure in communities of color. By engaging in advocacy and outreach, attorneys can help to prevent accidents before they happen and make our roads safer for everyone.


The racial disparities in pedestrian and cyclist accidents are a pressing social justice issue that requires urgent attention. By implementing legal reforms
and addressing the root causes of these disparities, we can work towards a more equitable and safer future for all road users. Personal injury attorneys can play a vital role in this effort by representing victims, advocating for legal reforms, and partnering with community organizations to promote safer streets.

As a society, we have a responsibility to ensure that everyone can travel safely and without fear of harm. We cannot allow racial disparities to continue to put pedestrians and cyclists at risk. By taking action now, we can build a future where all road users can travel safely and confidently.

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