Exploring Racial Bias in Drivers' Behavior at Pedestrian Crossings

Kimberly Kahn, Portland State University


Racial minorities are disproportionately represented in pedestrian traffic fatalities, indicating a significant public health and safety issue. Psychological and social identity-related factors have previously been shown to influence drivers’ behaviors toward pedestrians. If drivers’ behavior reflects racial bias and results in differential behavior toward Black and White pedestrians, this may lead to disparate pedestrian crossing experiences based on race and potentially contribute to disproportionate safety outcomes. We tested this hypothesis in a controlled field experiment at an unsignalized midblock marked crosswalk in downtown Portland, Oregon. Six trained male research team confederates (3 White, 3 Black) simulated an individual pedestrian crossing, while trained observers cataloged the number of cars that passed and the time until a driver yielded. Results (90 pedestrian trials, 168 driver-subjects) revealed that Black pedestrians were passed by twice as many cars and experienced wait times that were 32% longer than White pedestrians. Results support the hypothesis that minority pedestrians experience discriminatory treatment by drivers.

Project Details

Project Type:
Small Starts
Project Status:
End Date:
March 31,2014
UTC Grant Cycle:
Tier 1 Small Starts Round 1
UTC Funding: