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Pedestrian death rates are higher for most minorities

Posted at 6:35 PM, Oct 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-04 22:14:44-04

The morning of December 10, 2018 was the last time Nydea Richards saw her 15-year-old son, Keshawn Hubanks alive.

"It was the one day that he forgot and walked out of here and didn't give me a hug or kiss and say my mom see you later; that one day," she said.

He was rushing out of the door of their south Phoenix apartment to catch the first of two buses he took to get to Valley Lutheran High School in Central Phoenix. Richards said within minutes of him leaving one of her children came back to tell her Hubanks had been hit by a car. She ran out to find her son not moving in the middle of Southern Avenue just west of Central Avenue.

Eubanks, who is Black, had been struck outside of the crosswalk.

Hubanks' death in 2018 was one of the final pedestrian fatalities in a year that saw a sharp increase. Data from the Maricopa Association of Governments, which tracks crash information for Maricopa and parts of Pinal Counties, shows 1,264 pedestrian injury crashes and 174 fatalities that year.

The rising numbers locally, were part of a national trend according to Cara Hamann, an Assistant Professor of Epidemiology at the University of Iowa. She studies pedestrian accidents and said from fatal pedestrian crashes rose by more than 50% from 2008 to 2018.

But researchers found another trend within the data.

"We see pedestrian fatalities rising overall, but those increases are not equal when we look by racial group," Hamann said.

Using hospital records and other national databases Hamann and her research team found that non-white pedestrians have higher rates of pedestrian injury and death when compared to whites except for Asian-Pacific Islanders.

In fatal pedestrian accidents, the mortality rate for Asian or Pacific Islanders is 1.44 per 100,000 residents, 1.67 for whites, 2.07 for Hispanics, 2.44 for Multiracial (which includes Native Americans), and 2.78 for Black pedestrians according to the research.

When it comes to injuries Asian or Pacific Islanders hospitalization rates are 8.27 per 100,000 residents, 11.82 for Hispanic, 13 for Whites, 15.62 for Blacks and 24.91 for Multiracial pedestrians.

Researchers did not explore why the disparities exist, but Hamann said the conclusions are in line with other disproportionately poor outcomes for minorities. She said the next step is to address it.

"How can we parse that out and determine what kind of systemic changes need to be made? What kind of policy changes need to be made? What maybe we need to allocate funding for transportation differently," Hamann said.

The City of Phoenix, where Hubanks was hit, does not track the race or ethnicities of pedestrians who are injured or killed but in response to the 2018 increase in pedestrian deaths it created an Office of Pedestrian Safety.

One of its strategies was to ramp up the installation of HAWK signals. They're midblock crosswalks with flashing lights that can be instantly activated by pedestrians. The idea is to create a way for pedestrians to safely cross when not near an intersection.

67 have been installed, with one of the most recent being on 35th Avenue just north of Indian School after an ABC15 investigation revealed several deadly pedestrian accidents at that location.

As additional HAWK signals have gone up the City reported a reduction in pedestrian deaths by one-third since 2018.

Richards wonders if having a signal would have helped her son.

"Did he see this vehicle? Did he have the moment, that chance to even just, move?" she said.

Richards said she hoped to ensure that chance for others after she spoke to City officials about installing more pedestrian safety measures along the stretch of Southern where her son was hit but said she hadn't heard back from them about an outcome.

"It's just not even about my child or my kids. It's this whole neighborhood," she said.

South Phoenix Community Activist Dana Burns also pressed the City for more safety measures since Hubanks' death.

She said funding was recently secured by City of Phoenix for a HAWK signal where Hubanks was hit.

A city spokesperson told ABC15 it is still being designed for the area and there is no timeline for installation.