Relationship Between Socioeconomic Inequality and Traffic Crashes on Virginia Roads at the County and Census-Tract Levels

Report No: 24-R12

Published in 2023

About the report:

Socioeconomic inequality is a critical challenge our society faces, as its mitigation enhances group cohesion, social mobility, and long-term economic growth. Traffic crashes may be viewed as a domain that is marginally affected by socioeconomic inequality. Prior studies, however, have reported more fatalities and injuries in poorer neighborhoods. This leads to research questions about socioeconomic disparities, particularly on Virginia roads. To address the research question, this study analyzed large-scale panel data in two phases. The panel data for Phase 1 focused on county level analysis. The data consisted of 1,064 observations between 2013 and 2020 and used four heterogeneous big data sources: Virginia crash data, Virginia traffic vehicle miles traveled data, the American Community Survey, and County Health Rankings and Roadmaps. The panel data for Phase 2 focused on census tract level analysis. It was comprised of 8,068 observations between 2015 and 2021 across 1,485 census tracts in Virginia, derived from Virginia crash data and the American Community Survey. The analysis of this project’s empirical results indicates:   

  1. There are socioeconomic inequality correlations with the safety of Virginia roads. Education and income emerge as significant contributing factors in decreasing traffic crash measures. Disadvantaged communities experience higher traffic crash rates than advantaged communities. Census tracts with a high proportion of households with no vehicle access generally exhibit higher rates of traffic crashes.
  1. Higher traffic crash rates are correlated with race on Virginia roads. Neighborhoods with a higher Black population show higher rates of serious injury crashes and people injuries. The combination of secondary roads, disadvantaged communities, and Black neighborhoods has the highest rates of people injured in crashes.
  1. Virginia has experienced an increase in the road fatality rate. Specifically, the fatal crash rate has increased on all non-interstate roads, secondary roads, and urban roads. Additionally, the pedestrian fatality rate has also increased on all non-interstate roads. Furthermore, the total crash rate on rural roads has been found to increase during the same time period. 

  2. Results show that pedestrian fatality rates are higher in both very affluent and poor neighborhoods. Census tracts with higher levels of education exhibit higher pedestrian injury rates as do census tracts with higher levels of poverty.

Supplemental files can be found at:

Disclaimer Statement:The contents of this report reflect the views of the author(s), who is responsible for the facts and the accuracy of the data presented herein. The contents do not necessarily reflect the official views or policies of the Virginia Department of Transportation, the Commonwealth Transportation Board, or the Federal Highway Administration. This report does not constitute a standard, specification, or regulation. Any inclusion of manufacturer names, trade names, or trademarks is for identification purposes only and is not to be considered an endorsement.


Other Authors

Dong Kyoon Yoo, Ph.D.

Last updated: November 28, 2023

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