Traffic Injury on Tribal Lands in California
There is a disproportional risk of motor vehicle death and injury among American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) populations in the United States. As home to the nation’s largest population of AI individuals, it is vital that California develop a better understanding of the factors contributing to this risk to guide the development and implementation of interventions to improve traffic safety for this population on the nearly 100 Rancherias and reservations in the state. However, there is very little data about the numbers and types of collisions, and driver and environmental factors contributing to the collisions that occur on tribal lands. As a first step toward better understanding the scope of the risk disparity, and the shortcomings in data collection, SafeTREC conducted a literature review and crash analysis using data from the Statewide Integrated Traffic Record System (SWITRS) and tribal area base maps targeting these communities. As a result of presentations and discussions at a California Tribal Safety conference where these analyses were presented, a number of procedural and institutional challenges were identified. Addressing these issues will not only help policymakers identify interventions to improve traffic safety on tribal lands, but it will give tribal jurisdictions tools to compete for scarce safety funding through the use of data documenting the need for safety improvements. Future research efforts should be aimed at refining these and other initiatives to address both the dire conditions of traffic safety on California’s tribal lands, and the limitations of the data.