Does Race Affect Pedestrian Accidents?

Does race affect how drivers treat pedestrians? A study from the University of Nevada seems to think so. According to their research, drivers are less likely to yield to African-American pedestrians in crosswalks than to white pedestrians.

Racial Bias?

To conduct the study, researchers watched as two female students, both of similar height and wearing similar clothes — though one was black and the others was white — crossed a street with no traffic light. They observed how many cars passed the pedestrian as they stood on the curb and waited to cross. Once the student was crossing the street, they continued to count how many cars failed to stop.

They found that drivers yielded to pedestrians about 52% of the time in high-income neighborhoods, and 71% of the time in low-income neighborhoods. Additionally, the study found that the average number of vehicles that passed by the African-American pedestrian already in the crosswalk was seven times higher than the average number of vehicles that passed by the white pedestrian in the crosswalk in a wealthier neighborhood.

However, the study is careful to note that there may be some discrepancies in their research. For example, in one scenario, where they measured how many cars drove past both black and white pedestrians in a crosswalk, they found that there was little difference in how the cars reacted, or if they braked to let the pedestrian safely pass. They also point out that economic and social factors likely played a role. In higher income areas, people are likely to have cars and drive more often, while lower income neighborhoods see a greater amount of pedestrians; both of these factors can contribute to the amount of pedestrian incidents. Roadway design, like the amount of lanes, also played a role.

Deeper Issues

Still, the study raises questions about how race affects pedestrian accidents. Pedestrian accidents are a huge problem across various populations — over 4,000 pedestrians are killed in accidents every year. However, the fatality rate is higher for racial groups. Black and Latino men, for example, experience a higher fatality rate than white men.

As the study shows, economics and roadways infrastructure play an important role in preventing traffic accidents. Unfortunately, it’s a symptom of American’s systematic racism that lower income areas are often predominantly non-white. So even if the study doesn’t explicitly prove that black pedestrians are more likely to be hit by cars, it does show the underlying causes of racial bias in pedestrian accidents.

Always look out for ALL pedestrians, particularly around crosswalks!


The attorneys at Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes represent those involved in car accidents, motorcycle accidents, bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, and other types of personal injury matters. Our firm is one of the oldest personal injury law firms in Tampa Bay. There are no attorneys’ fees or costs unless we prevail for you. Call our office 24 hours a day at 727-796-8282 or simply click here to schedule a free case consultation.

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