Study Suggests It’s More Dangerous For Black Pedestrians To Cross The Street

FMB PHOTO via Getty Images
FMB PHOTO via Getty Images

Pedestrians routinely contend with traffic hazards, but crossing the road may be even more dangerous if you’re a minority.

A pilot study by the Portland State University-based Oregon Transportation Research and Education Consortium (OTREC) found that drivers were less likely to stop for black pedestrians waiting to use a crosswalk than white ones. The study is the first to examine the effects of race on pedestrian crossing experiences.

Researchers had three black and three white men of similar age, height and build, dressed in identical neutral outfits and “without any obvious social or socio-economic characteristics,” cross an unsignalized, marked crosswalk in downtown Portland. Each pedestrian crossed 15 times, resulting in 168 driver subjects overall.

Per the study, trained observers standing out of sight to oncoming cars recorded whether the first car to approach yielded for the pedestrian, how many cars passed before someone yielded and the number of seconds that passed before the pedestrian could cross the street.

Observers found that black pedestrians got passed by twice as many cars as white pedestrians, and waited 32 percent longer to cross.

Though the sample size was small, the study has already prompted significant interest from the transportation community. Lead researcher Dr. Kimberly Kahn said she believes it’s an important first step.

“We wanted to test this hypothesis to see if pedestrian’s race would influence driver’s yielding decisions at crosswalks,” Kahn told The Huffington Post by phone. “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.”

Kahn, who studies implicit bias in the field of social psychology, said the results of the study didn’t surprise her, but that the reaction among transportation experts, who haven’t studied these types of biases as much, has been “really striking.”

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Source: Black Voices | Kim Bellware

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