Researchers Discover Racial Bias at Crosswalks


Drivers are less likely to stop for black pedestrians than white ones, according to a Portland State University-based Oregon Transportation Research and Education Consortium (OTREC) study.

Researchers said that black pedestrians usually wait a third longer for cars to stop and cross, than white pedestrians.

Researchers said that race - which has penetrated into education, employment, health care and criminal sentencing - has also found its way at crosswalks. This study found evidence that the behaviour of the driver toward pedestrians, waiting to use a crosswalk, was based on the race.

"In a fast-paced activity like driving, where decisions may need to be made in a fraction of a second, people's' actions can be influenced by these subtle attitudes," the researchers said.

According to a Smart Growth America study, the pedestrian fatality rate for African-Americans is 60 percent higher than non-Hispanic whites and 43 percent higher for Hispanics.

For the study, the researchers chose an unsignalised, but clearly marked crosswalk near Southwest Park Avenue and Clay Street. Six test subjects in their 20s - three white men and three black men, crossed the crosswalk in the same manner 15 times. "These trials resulted in 168 driver subjects."

The researchers found that the black pedestrians got passed by twice as many cars and waited 32 percent longer than white pedestrians.

Researchers said that while they expected some differences at the end of the study, but the stark contrast in fact appalled the researchers.

"We wanted to test this hypothesis to see if pedestrian's race would influence driver's yielding decisions at crosswalks. For this first initial study, we wanted to see if the effect was even there, and even with the relatively small sample size, we saw a significant variation between races," said Researcher Kimberly Barsamian Kahn, Huffington Post reports.

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