Motor vehicle traffic is a public health issue

Air pollution from cars

Vehicle traffic impacts public health in many ways. Traffic can limit opportunities for walking and physical activity, and it can be a safety hazard. Traffic contributes to local air pollution and noise levels, especially near major roads. Vehicle traffic is not spread evenly across urban areas. It is important to address traffic-related health risks to achieve health equity. For example, a recent study suggest that lower-income areas and communities of color in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area tend to have higher levels of traffic-related air pollution, even though these same residents generally drive less than residents of wealthier, majority-white areas do.

Traffic is a major contributor to air pollution in Minnesota

According to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA), most of the air pollutants of concern today come from on- and off-road vehicles – including cars and trucks. Motor vehicles emit a complex mixture of pollutants, including ozone and particulate matter. Long-term exposure to traffic-related pollution is a risk factor for developing lung and heart diseases, and for early death.

What is being done about traffic-related hazards?

Traffic related air pollution:

Traffic safety:

  • MDH’s Injury and Violence Prevention program collects and analyzes Minnesota vehicle crash data, and works with partners to support crash prevention programs.
  • Crash injury data can be viewed at the MDH Crash Outcome Data Evaluation System (CODES), including information about place of crash, alcohol involvement and seatbelt use.
  • Annual statistics on vehicle crashes are available through the Department of Public Safety.
  • Toward Zero Deaths is a Minnesota partnership between public agencies and private organizations working to reduce traffic crashes, injuries, and fatalities through education, enforcement, engineering and emergency services.

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