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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Deadly Roads: An Analysis of Traffic Safety In or Near Indian Country in Humboldt County


This report presents findings from a recently completed pilot project that examined fatality and injury rates involving pedestrians and motorists on main thoroughfares in or near Indian country in Humboldt County, California.  Every year thousands of motorists die and millions more are injured on the nation’s roadways.  But while the number of fatal crashes nationally has declined by 2% over the past 25 years, the number of vehicle-related fatalities in or near Indian country has increased over 50%.  In order to understand the reasons for this increase and to begin developing safety countermeasures, we need better data documenting the problem.  This pilot study combined analysis of CHP’s Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System (SWITRS) database and other sources of crash data with GIS mapping to document the areas in or near Indian country in Humboldt County with the highest rates of vehicle related injuries and fatalities over the past five years.  The report includes analysis ofrates of traffic collisions involving fatalities in or near Indian Country over a five-year period (2004-2009) in Humboldt County; the number of these collisions involving youth, pedestrians, alcohol, and DUI; and the effect of a new casino on the rate of collisions involving fatalities and severe injuries. The report concludes with recommendations for next steps that might be taken to improve traffic safety in Indian country, including identifying hotspots, working with tribal police to document all traffic injuries, andworking with tribal members to assess risk conditions and evaluate safety efforts. The results of the analysis will be used to help Native nations document the dangers associated with roadways that, while they run through Indian country, are the responsibility of the state to ensure safe passage.

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