Poor, Less Educated Drivers at Greater Risk of Death in Car Accidents

In recent years, experts have presented the promising news that deaths on American roadways continue to decrease – though not as fast or as significantly as anyone would like. However, a new study reveals that while deaths overall may be falling, it depends on your socioeconomic position as to whether you face a decreased risk of an auto fatality or whether you may actually face an increased risk of harm.

The data comes from the National Center for Health Studies and suggests that poor, less educated drivers are at a greater risk of death caused by a car accident than are drivers with greater educations and more money. Though this outcome is clear, the reasons behind it are murkier. One primary cause for this disparity seems to be the vehicles themselves that are driven by members of different classes. As newer safety features debut, they tend to be included only on higher end vehicles that are marketed to drivers with greater resources and on average, it takes approximately 30 years for those features to reach 95 percent pervasiveness on all cars on American streets. This means that though blind spot warnings, front impact alerts, and automatic brakes are being deployed in the newest vehicles at the upper end of the market, it may take decades for those at the bottom of the auto ownership spectrum to own cars with those safety aids. Currently, an average vehicle lasts for 11.5 years in this country with the poorest drivers being the most likely to own the oldest vehicles.

This is a never ending cycle – once today’s features make it to the operators of older, used cars, even newer advances will be present in the newest cars purchased by wealthier Americans. This means that the divide caused by safety features will continue into the foreseeable future and it explains part of the difference between the safety of those with means and those without them when a car accident takes place.

Vehicular innovations may explain why more deaths come from lower socioeconomic classes and those who are less educated but they do not explain why those at the bottom of the financial spectrum are facing an increased risk of death in recent years. For example, in 1995, people with the least education were 2.5 times more likely than those with the most education to die in a car crash. By 2010, that factor grew to 4.3 times higher, a clear indication that the risks to the poor and undereducated are increasing at an alarming rate.

One theory suggests that roads in poorer areas tend to be in worse condition and in need of greater repair than those in areas frequented by Americans with money. Poor roads are a significant cause of collisions and may be one factor leading to a differential in outcomes among passengers and drivers involved in a crash. Another thought is that a recent wave of closures among medical facilities, including hospitals and trauma centers, has hit communities of the poor with more ferocity than those of the wealthy. This in turn can create longer transit times from the site of a crash to an emergency room among poor, less educated victims and can decrease their odds of surviving a collision. And then there is the controversial argument that skills among drivers will less money may be lacking due to a lack of an acceptable driver’s education program, a lack of real world driving skills, or for other reasons, making these motorists more prone to poor decisions behind the wheel.

Though the reasons may be debated among experts, the outcome should not be ignored by anyone who drives, including those who frequent the Chicago area. The risk of death is not equal among all motorists on the roads and as safety is a collective responsibility, it should prompt a collective response to this issue.

If you were involved in a car accident in Chicago and you were injured, or if someone you love lost their life in a crash, make sure you understand your legal options and whether you have a valid claim for your injuries. If you have questions, know that the personal injury attorneys at Abels & Annes, P.C. are standing by 24 hours a day, seven days a week to take your call toll free at (855) 529-2442 or locally at (312) 924-7575. We offer a free case consultation without obligation to all victims and if we represent you in your case, we will never charge you a fee unless we make a recovery on your behalf.

Prior Blog Entry:

Fatal Workplace Accidents Increased in 2014, Chicago Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, published October 1, 2015.


Poor People Are More Likely To Die While Driving Than Ever Before, by Alex Lloyd, Yahoo! Autos, published October 2, 2015.

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