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FHWA Home / Safety / Pedestrian & Bicycle / Final Detailed Findings Report for Marketing Plan

The Pedestrian and Bicyclist Highway Safety Problem As It Relates to the Hispanic Population in the United States

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II. Background & Relevant Review

A. Project Background

The nature and extent of the Hispanic pedestrian and bicycle highway safety problem is not well known. It is apparent that a disproportionate number of the persons killed in highway crashes of all types are Hispanic immigrants. While the reasons for this over-involvement are not known it has been suggested that cultural differences, language problems, and a lack of familiarity with traffic in the United States may be involved. (Braver, 2003)

Census data show that the Hispanic population is growing faster than any other group in the United States. The highway safety problems of Hispanics will only increase as more and more Hispanics immigrate to the U.S. Accordingly, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) contracted with the Center for Applied Research, Inc. (CAR) and its subcontractor, The Media Network, Inc.(TMN).

B. Project Objectives

The contract had the following objectives:

  1. Work with and form partnership/s with organization/s that understand/s the Hispanic roadway safety problem and have a working knowledge of such issues. These may include law enforcement organizations, health-related organizations, Hispanic groups (there are several U.S. organizations catering to the interests of Hispanics that could be a good resource for this project), etc. In order to get the needed information, the contractor will need to work with groups that have access to hospital data, as this information is not available to the general public.
  2. Conduct research to determine the extent of the highway safety problem as it relates to Hispanics. Determine how big of a problem it is overall, but mainly in the two areas we wish to cover: Hispanics as pedestrians and Hispanics as bicyclists. Determine where the crashes, injuries, and fatalities lie (in each of the above-mentioned areas, and among what groups - these include Hispanics of Mexican origin, Hispanics of South American origin, Hispanics of Puerto Rican ancestry, and Hispanics of Cuban origin). Determine why these crashes, fatalities and injuries are occurring - i.e., language error, cultural differences, etc.
  3. Develop a report that may be used for publication detailing the methodology and results of the research.

The ultimate goal of this project was be to provide FHWA and NHTSA information they could use in developing a marketing plan to tell thus. Department of Transportation and other interested organizations how to best market safety messages to Hispanic audiences in the U.S.

C. Relevant Literature

A 1995 NHTSA report, Highway Safety Needs of the U.S. Hispanic Communities: Issues and Strategies, addressed all of the highway safety issues facing Hispanics. Telephone and on-site discussions were held with representatives from highway safety, law enforcement, emergency medical, health, education and general services agencies in four areas. Nearly 50 focus groups with community members were conducted. They found that:

"Most of the agency and organization representatives who participated in telephone discussions indicated that highway safety is not a major concern in any of the Hispanic communities targeted by the study. They mentioned housing, health care, employment and other economic issues, crime, gangs and domestic violence as issues with far greater priority."

Significantly, for this study, they presented a listing of the ten most frequently mentioned highway safety problems mentioned by agency and organization representatives. They had a similar list of the top ten highway safety problems mentioned by the focus group participants. Neither pedestrians nor bicyclists were mentioned on either list. Detailed discussions of other highway safety issues - such as drinking and driving, seat belts, older drivers, and child safety seats - were presented. There was no discussion of pedestrian or bicycle safety. There was a section entitled "Elderly Drivers and Pedestrians" but the word "pedestrian" appeared only in the title.

These findings are very similar to the ones uncovered in this project. As will be discussed in the section on Partnership and Coalition Building, very little interest in pedestrian and bicycle safety was found in the Hispanic community.

VOAS at al (1999) presented data on the relationship between ethnicity and crash involvement. Most of the data was from FARS and there is no need to describe it here because a similar analysis of more recent FARS data is described in a later section of this report. They did, however, present some interesting California state death certificate data for the year 1996. Caucasian Americans and Hispanic Americans had very similar death rates for traffic crashes (all crash types - not just pedestrian). The rates were 0.16 per 100,000 for Caucasians and 0.18 for Hispanics. They also had very similar death rates from assaults, falls, suicide and other accidents - 0.41 for Caucasians and 0.39 for Hispanics.

Dhillon at al (2001) examined pedestrian and bicycle crashes involving children in Long Beach, CA between January 1, 1992, and June 30, 1995. Police reports for 1,015 crashes were compared with 474 hospital records. A total of 379 cases were found in both data bases. They found that the hospital sources identified younger children, fewer bicyclists, more Hispanic and Asian children and fewer African-American children than the police reports. This finding suggests that Hispanic children may be under represented in police reported crashes, at least in California with its relatively large proportion of illegal aliens who might want to avoid dealing with the police.

Campos-Outcalf et al (2002) examined pedestrian fatalities by race/ethnicity in Arizona using FARS data for 1990-1996. They found that American Indians were far more over-represented than either non-Hispanic Whites, Blacks, or Hispanics. The only groups that showed significantly elevated rates compared to non-Hispanic Whites were Hispanic males under 5 years of age and Black females between 65 and 74 years of age.

Campos-Outcalf et al (2002) compared the motor vehicle crash fatality rates among different race/ethnic groups in rural and urban Arizona. They concluded that the American Indians had the highest crash rate. They found that Blacks and Hispanics did not have raised total motor vehicle fatality rates. Non-Hispanic Whites actually had higher rates in the rural areas of Arizona

The report Pedestrian Safety in Crisis: Latino Deaths on the International Corridor (Gutierrez, 2003) addresses pedestrian safety in the Langley Park/Long Branch/Takoma Park area of suburban Maryland. A total of seven Latino pedestrians were killed during a 14 month period. The majority of the pedestrians were not crossing at an intersection. Latinos are over-represented in pedestrian fatalities since only 11.5% of the county's population experienced 24.4% of the fatalities for 1997-1999. However, areas with high concentration of crashes, such as Silver Spring and Wheaton-Glenmont, also had a much higher percentage Latino population, 22% and 26% respectively. These percentages are very close to the percent of fatalities that were Latino- 24.4%.

Agran et al (1998) examined the family, social and cultural factors in pedestrian injuries among Hispanic children. They found that Hispanic children were over three times more involved in pedestrian crashes than non-Hispanic white children. A case-control study of Hispanic children in the Southwest U.S. was conducted with 98 children 0-14 years of age who were hospitalized because of a pedestrian injury. The controls were 144 randomly selected children matched to the case by city, age, gender and ethnicity. Using conditional logistic regression, they found that the following family and cultural characteristics were associated with an increased risk of injury:

These results suggest that pedestrian safety materials need to be culturally sensitive and designed for those with limited reading skills.

Christottel (1996) showed a relationship between the lack of family cohesion, divorce, single family homes, etc., and the greater involvement in pedestrian crashes among children from those homes. Similarly, Cagley (1992) showed a negative correlation between income and pedestrian crashes. Poorer neighborhoods were about 4 times more likely to experience pedestrian crashes than the more wealthy neighborhoods.

Gresham et al (2001) used a randomized pre-test and post-test comparative design to evaluate an injury prevention program for 1st, 2nd and 3rd grade children. The program (Think First for Kids - TFFK) addresses sports, vehicle crashes, falls, drowning and pedestrian injuries. They found that the TFFK program resulted in a significant increase in knowledge about safe behaviors. Although Hispanic and Black children displayed the lowest baseline test scores, they had the largest absolute improvement in post-test scores. This indicates that pedestrian safety programs targeting Hispanic children should be especially effective.


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Page last modified on January 31, 2013
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