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How does safety impact U.S. DOT’s work in other priority areas?

Safety is and will always be the Department’s top priority. Roadway safety is also a foundational prerequisite to our success in addressing two other major priorities: equity and climate.


The Executive Order on Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government (EO 13985) pursues a comprehensive approach to advancing equity for all, including individuals who have been historically underserved and adversely affected by persistent poverty or income inequality. An important area for U.S. DOT’s focus is the disproportionate, adverse safety impacts that affect certain groups on our roadways. For example:

  • Fatalities among Black people increased by 23% between 2019 and 2020 compared to an overall increase of 7.2%. In 2020, people who are American Indian and Alaska Native continue to have roadway fatality rates more than double the national rate on a per population basis.1,2

  • Although men consistently represent more than 70% of drivers involved in fatal crashes, when comparable crashes are analyzed and risk-taking differences are accounted for, studies have shown that motor vehicle fatality risk is, on average, 17% higher for a female than for a male of the same age.3
  • The 40% of counties with the highest poverty rates in 2019 experienced a fatality rate 35 % higher than the national average on a per population basis.4

The Department will advance equity as an instrumental component of transportation safety and convene key stakeholders – government at all levels, law enforcement, advocacy and community organizations, and the general public – to develop both a better understanding of the intersection of equity and roadway safety, and a comprehensive approach to incorporating equity into all of the Department’s efforts to achieve zero roadway fatalities and serious injuries.  

Climate Change

The Executive Order 14008 on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad deploys the full capacity of Federal executive agencies to combat the climate crisis. As climate change continues to re-shape our environment, its future effects on roadway safety will need to be taken into account.

Improved safety on our roadway is needed to increase use of transit, walking, rolling, and riding as a key strategy for achieving transportation greenhouse gas reductions goals. People who select climate-friendly transportation options decrease transportation-related emissions that contribute to climate change. Yet compared to people in vehicles, walkers and bikers suffer disproportionately from serious injuries and fatalities when a crash occurs. Moreover, in the past decade, fatalities among pedestrians and bicyclists have been increasing faster than roadway fatalities overall, which has a chilling effect on climate-friendly transportation options such as walking, biking, rolling, or taking public transportation. 

To unlock the climate benefits of those modes, we need road and street systems that feel and are safe for all road users. 

1 NHTSA: Early Estimates of Motor Vehicle Traffic Fatalities and Fatality Rate by Sub-Categories in 2020
2 Traffic Safety Facts: 2020 Data - Race and Ethnicity (
3 NHTSA: Injury Vulnerability and Effectiveness of Occupant Protection Technologies for Older Occupants and Women
4 FARS 2019 data publication, 1st release; Poverty rates and Population data by County, U.S. Census. The fatality rate for the top 40% of counties by poverty rate was 14.9 per 100,000 population versus 11.0 for the country.