Racism and Pedestrian Accidents: Study Shows Drivers Less Likely to Stop for Minority Pedestrians

Pedestrian accident

There are many reasons why a pedestrian may be struck by a vehicle. The driver may be speeding on a New Jersey street and be unable to stop in time; he or she may be distracted by a smart phone; or the driver may be impaired by drugs or alcohol. A study shows another factor may be racism of the driver.

Drivers are less likely to stop their vehicles when people of color step into intersections, according to a study by researchers at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, according to NPR. This may partly explain why there is a higher level of pedestrian deaths among racial minorities in the country.

An estimated 4,735 pedestrians were killed in traffic crashes in the United States in 2013, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This averages out to one crash-related pedestrian death every two hours. The New Jersey State Police report that, in 2015, 173 pedestrians were killed in vehicle accidents across the state, or nearly one pedestrian fatality every other day.

More than 150,000 pedestrians had to be treated in hospital emergency departments for crash-related injuries nationwide in 2013. It has been estimated that pedestrians are 1.5 times more likely than passenger vehicle occupants to be killed in a car crash on each trip.

Researchers have found that people of color are more likely than whites to be victims of pedestrian accidents. Possible reasons include these:

Courtney Coughenour is a public health researcher at the University of Nevada Las Vegas. In 2016 after hearing that the number of pedestrian accidents in the city increased that year, compared to 2015, she performed experiments to get some insight into the issue. Coughenour wanted to determine if the race of pedestrians has any effect on driver behavior.

  • Brave research assistants stepped into intersections at crosswalks in Las Vegas while other researchers measured where the cars stopped for them.
  • Under Nevada law, if a pedestrian is in a crosswalk in the driver’s lane, the driver is supposed to stop.
  • One of the pedestrian/research assistants walking across these crosswalks was white and the other was black.
  • Drivers were less likely to yield to the African-American pedestrian when they were in the street compared to the white pedestrian — by a significant difference.
  • The results indicated a driver bias, whether conscious or unconscious.

The experiments showed that driver behavior was not the same throughout the city. They were performed in high-income and low-income neighborhoods. They found drivers in a wealthier neighborhood were less likely to stop for pedestrians than those in a poorer neighborhood.

No matter who is involved, The Law Offices of James C. DeZao help pedestrians who are the victims of vehicle accidents. These kinds of accidents are potentially deadly and can leave victims with severe, lifelong disabilities. They are often caused by senseless mistakes by drivers, and, according to this research, subconscious bias by drivers against minorities may be yet another senseless reason for the harm.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a pedestrian accident in New Jersey, schedule a free consultation with our office by calling us at (973) 358-6134 or by using our online quick connect form. Contact us so you can learn about your legal rights and take action to protect your ability to seek compensation.

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