Monday, April 22, 2013

Tribal Traffic Safety

According to the National Center for Statistics & Analysis, there was a decrease of 2.2% of fatal crashes in the United States between 1975 and 2002. For the same timeframe, fatal crashes went up by 52.5% on tribal lands.  
The USDOT, FHWA and Office of Federal Lands Highway have worked together with tribal lands to improve the safety of their roads and drivers. Tribal members are overrepresented in traffic fatalities due to impaired driving, lack of seat belt use and disregard of traffic laws. According to a paper from the National Conference of State Legislatures, educational outreach can be difficult due to cultural barriers. Also, tribes are sovereign governments so it is up to them to pass their own laws (or adopt state laws) and as we all know, laws must be enforced in order to be effective. For small policing agencies, coverage can be very difficult.

In a study of the Yakama reservation, over half of traffic fatalities were alcohol related. The CDC reports 31% of fatalities are cause by drunk driving, which shows that impaired driving is a significant issue for the Yakama reservation. The project proposed to increase enforcement, increase media and public outreach.  The local newspaper and radio station ran public service announcements and advertisements were posted. Enforcement was increased and targeted for impaired driving and seat belt use based on where previous fatalities had occurred.  The tribal police also targeted school zones.