Motor vehicle crash fatalities: A comparison of Hispanic and non-Hispanic motorists in Colorado

J S Harper, W M Marine, C J Garrett, D Lezotte, S R Lowenstein
Annals of Emergency Medicine 2000, 36 (6): 589-96

STUDY OBJECTIVES: We compare the population-based death rates from traffic crashes in the Hispanic and non-Hispanic white populations in a single state, and compare fatally injured Hispanic and non-Hispanic drivers with respect to safety belt use, alcohol involvement, speeding, vehicle age, valid licensure, and urban-rural location.

METHODS: Hispanic and non-Hispanic white motorists killed in traffic crashes in 1991-1995 were studied (n=2,272). Data from death certificates (age, sex, education, race, and ethnicity) and the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS; driver, vehicle, and crash information) were merged. Average annual age-adjusted fatality rates were calculated; to compare Hispanic and non-Hispanic white motorists, rate ratios (RR) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were calculated. Odds ratios (ORs), adjusted for age, sex, and rural locale, were calculated to measure the association between Hispanic ethnicity and driver and crash characteristics.

RESULTS: Eighty-five percent of FARS records were matched to death certificates. Compared with non-Hispanic white motorists, Hispanics had higher crash-related fatality rates overall (RR 1.75, 95% CI 1.60 to 1.92) and for drivers only (RR 1.62, 95% CI 1.41 to 1.85). After adjustment for age, sex, and rural locale, Hispanic drivers had higher rates of safety belt nonuse (OR 1.81, 95% CI 1.20 to 2.72), legal alcohol intoxication (OR 2.73, 95% CI 1.97 to 3.79), speeding (OR 1.36, 95% CI 0.99 to 1.88), and invalid licensure (OR 2.58, 95% CI 1.78 to 3.75). The average vehicle age for Hispanic drivers (10.1 years, 95% CI 9.3 to 11.0) was greater than for non-Hispanic white motorists (8.8 years, 95% CI 8.4 to 9.2).

CONCLUSION: Compared with non-Hispanic whites, Hispanic drivers have higher rates of safety belt nonuse, speeding, invalid licensure and alcohol involvement, with correspondingly higher rates of death in traffic crashes. As traffic safety emerges as a public health priority in Hispanic communities, these data may help in developing appropriate and culturally sensitive interventions.

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