*A new study appears to double down on evidence that drivers are less likely to brake for African American pedestrians trying to cross the street, a phenomenon known as “walking while black.”
Researchers at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas also found that the disparity is greater depending on whether the pedestrian is in a high- or low-income neighborhood: the average number of vehicles to pass by a black pedestrian who was already in the crosswalk was at least seven times higher compared with a white pedestrian in the wealthier neighborhood, the study’s lead researcher said.
But there are also several factors in the Las Vegas study that suggest the results should be interpreted with care, notes The Washington Post:
The Las Vegas study, which was published online in January in the journal of Accident Analysis and Prevention, involved observing what happens when two female students — one black, one white – cross a street where there is no traffic light.
The experiment was conducted in one neighborhood located on the west side of Las Vegas where the median household income was $55,994, and in another in the east where the median was $32,884. (Coughenour declined to identify the two neighborhoods further.)
Both pedestrians in the experiment were students and both were of similar height and build. Each wore similar clothing. They took turns crossing the street about 126 times, or approximately 34 times in the high-income neighborhood and 30 times in the low-income neighborhood. (Two crossings were spoiled by observer error.)
The researchers first counted how many cars passed while the pedestrian stood on the curb waiting to cross. After the first car stopped in the nearest lane and the pedestrian stepped into the street, observers continued to count vehicles that failed to stop in the remaining lanes on that half of the street. (The observers did not count traffic moving in the opposite direction on the other half of the roadway.)
What the researchers found was that drivers yielded to the pedestrian waiting at the curb to cross about 52 percent of the time in the high-income neighborhood and 71 percent of the time in the low-income neighborhood.
After factoring in race, the researchers found little statistical significance in whether drivers yielded for black or white pedestrians waiting at the curb in either neighborhood – although drivers in the high- income area were less likely to yield for the white pedestrian. (And a higher percentage of drivers in the low-income neighborhood stopped for the white pedestrian.)
But Coughenour said she was much more troubled by the what happened when the pedestrians stepped off the curb and began walking in the crosswalk — both because of the more dangerous circumstances and because the statistical significance was higher: The average number of drivers who continued moving with a black pedestrian already in the crosswalk was at least seven times higher than for the white pedestrian in the high income neighborhood, she said.