04/19/2012 04:02 EDT | Updated 06/19/2012 05:12 EDT

Wealth And Traffic Accidents Study Shows Poorer People Many Times More Likely To Be Hurt

MONTREAL - People living in poor neighbourhoods are more than six times as likely to be injured in a road accident as their wealthy counterparts, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Public Health.

The study suggests children are the most vulnerable of all — with kids 7.3 times more likely to be injured in a road accident while walking in a poor area.

The study from researchers at the Montreal Public Health Department ranked rich and poor neighbourhoods in the city by average household income. It compared the number of traffic injuries in those neighbourhoods over a five-year period, from 1999 to 2004.

Patrick Morency, an author of the study and a public-health specialist, expressed surprise at the gap.

"It's much higher for everyone in the poorest neighbourhoods — children, adults, cyclists and even motor vehicle occupants — which is interesting."

On the whole, pedestrians were 6.3 times more likely to be injured by a car if they were poorer, the study said. Cyclists in poorer areas fared marginally better than their pedestrian counterparts: they were 3.9 times more likely to be injured by a car than cyclists in richer ones.

Not only were there more injuries in poorer areas — they were also worse. Injuries in those neighbourhoods were 6.6 times more likely to be severe.

The study cites several factors to explain the trend.

Low-income neighbourhoods see twice as much traffic, have a higher population density and have busier arteries. The study also says people living in poor neighbourhoods are more likely to walk because they have less access to cars.

Morency says the results may help debunk common stereotypes about why there are more traffic accidents in poor neighbourhoods.

"Most people would say it's higher because of behaviour — either (that) they don't use seatbelts, (cycling) helmets, use alcohol or whatever," he said.

"But this study says it's actually mostly due to environmental factors."