Governor's Highway Safety Association Plays the Race Card

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago

The Governor’s Highway Safety Association has just released a report entitled “Closing the Circle” [ download pdf here]. The “study,” funded entirely by State Farm Insurance, is all about the ethnic outreach, baby. Why? Because non-whites need more highway safety more than whites, apparently.

Motor vehicle crashes are a public health threat for all Americans. However, the threat is more pronounced among multicultural groups who are disproportionately killed in traffic crashes. A recent report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) showed that 6.8 percent of Native American deaths, from all causes, were attributable to motor vehicle traffic crashes, and more than 4.7 percent for Hispanics or Latinos. For the non-Hispanic White population, the percentage of those dying from traffic crashes was just below 1.6 percent, and for African Americans and Asians and Pacific Islanders, the percentages were 1.8 percent and 2.5 percent, respectively.

Why would anyone want to go there? But go there they did . . .

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for children ages 3 to 6 and 8 to 14 in the United States. African American children ages 4 to 7 have the lowest restraint use among children; an estimated 26 percent are unrestrained. According to the National Survey of the Use of Booster Seats (NSUBS), Hispanic children under 13 have lower restraint use rates (use of child safety seats, booster seats, and seat belts) than non-Hispanic children. NSUBS also found that child seat use rates tended to be higher among White and Asian non-Hispanic children and lower among African American non-Hispanic children. These statistics are especially troubling when you consider that the Census Department predicts that the population of minority children is expected to grow from 44 percent in 2008 to 62 percent in 2050.

So what is it about non-whites that makes non-whites more accident prone? For that, you’ll have to head down to the appendix (page 24) to learn how to properly stereotype any given ethnic group. For example, did you know that “the African American community is noted for a long history of respecting elders”? Or that Asian Americans have a “respect for higher education and the professions”? For Latinos “fatalism is part of mindset.”

Still, those aren’t driving safety risk indicators, are they? So give us a clue: what specific ethnic/cultural problems are we talking about? Surely we shouldn’t spend millions sending messages when we don’t know what messages to send. And we can’t know what messages to send until we know the root causes of the safety differential.

Of interest in determining the problem among various multicultural groups in a state, information can be gathered on race, Latino/Hispanic origin, alcohol involvement, and the driver’s record (year/month of last and first crash; suspension; conviction; previous recorded crashes, suspensions and speeding convictions; as well as previous other harmful motor vehicle convictions.)

Uh-oh. Are the esteemed eight-member panel, including Vicki P. Knox of Mother Against Drunk Driving (MADD), saying that ethnic drivers are more likely to be drunk drivers? ‘Cause you can’t say that, can you? Oh yes they can!

Culture also affects how people view the use of alcohol. In some cultures, drinking among youth is acceptable and may even be encouraged. Drinking patterns also differ within an ethnic group. Within the Asian/Pacific Islander multicultural group, drinking is prohibited for those from Islamic backgrounds (Indonesians, Burmese); while some Japanese have developed business oriented drinking patterns.

Culture may also affect how members of an ethnic group view law enforcement. ASPIRA noted that some new immigrants may have had negative experiences with law enforcement in their home countries and may not view law enforcement in the U.S. in a positive light.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not a Glenn Beckian commentator, suggesting that the government wants to intrude into every aspect of its citizens’ lives. Even though this study does suggest that government safety advocates have a look inside the family structure. [Remember: it’s all about the children!]

Finally, the Berkeley Center recommends an examination of parental behavior, which can greatly affect youth behavior, with traffic safety behaviors often being modeled (or not modeled) over generations. A lack of knowledge or misperception about risks can lead to non-use of seat belts or impaired driving.

For me, fiscal conservative that I am, the really worrisome bit is this, under the section “USE FUNDING”:

The Washington State Traffic Safety Commission has used funding as a way to gain access and trust among Native American populations. Even though the Bureau of Indian Affairs highway safety office manages funds for Native American nations, Native American groups have received direct grants from the WTSC. This tactic has helped build confidence and rapport particularly with tribal police who have sovereignty on Indian Reservations.

So there’s a direct connection between taxpayer handouts to ethnic groups and highway safety. Who knew?

Robert Farago
Robert Farago

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  • MgoBLUE MgoBLUE on Sep 24, 2009

    Furthermore -- I bet the rich, entitled white kids are the worst drivers, period. High speed, no seat belts, no regard for human life, and think they own the road. (It takes one to know one.) Where is their sub-set?

  • Loverofcars1969 Loverofcars1969 on Sep 24, 2009

    windswords : September 24th, 2009 at 9:27 am I think he shared equal love for both lol.

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