Racial Bias in Drivers' Yielding Behavior at Crosswalks: Understanding the Effect

Kimberly Kahn, Portland State University


        The proposed project explores social identity-related factors that influence drivers’ behaviors in interactions with pedestrians at crosswalks. One dangerous potential point of conflict in our transportation system to pedestrians is interactions with drivers at crosswalks (NHTS, 2003). In 2010, there was one crash-related pedestrian death every two hours and an injury every eight minutes (CDC, 2013). Racial minorities are disproportionately represented in pedestrian fatalities: From 2000 to 2010, pedestrian fatality rates for Black and Hispanic men (3.93 and 3.73 per 100,000) were more than twice the rate of 1.78 for White men (CDC, 2013). If drivers yield differently to Black and White pedestrians at crosswalks, this may lead to disparate crossing experiences and disproportionate safety outcomes.
        We hypothesize that, similar to other forms of racial discrimination that minorities experience across various domains in society, drivers will exhibit racial bias when making decisions about whether or not to stop for pedestrians waiting to cross the street at a marked crosswalk.  In our 2013 NITC “Small Starts” grant examining racial bias in drivers’ yield behavior at crosswalks, we conducted a controlled field experiment by observing drivers’ behavior toward Black and White male pedestrians at an unsignalized midblock marked crosswalk.  Results (88 pedestrian trials, 173 driver-subjects) revealed that Black male pedestrians were passed by twice as many cars and waited 32% longer than White male pedestrians, confirming that minority male pedestrians experience discriminatory treatment by drivers (Goddard, Kahn, & Adkins, in press at Transportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behaviour).
        The proposed study will expand the findings from the Small Starts grant and focus on the effect of additional pedestrian, driver, and environmental characteristics on drivers’ yielding behavior with pedestrians. We will investigate the 1) role of pedestrian gender in addition to race, 2) role of crosswalk design (basic crosswalk markings vs. statutory/additional signage), and 3) the role of drivers’ characteristics (male vs. female, White vs. minority) on drivers’ yielding behavior with minority and majority group member pedestrians.  We will conduct a larger version of our previous study using a controlled field experiment in which Black and White male and female pedestrians cross the street at two different types of crosswalks (basic vs. additional signage/markings), while trained coders mark drivers’ yielding behavior (number of cars that pass and time to cross). We will examine differences in drivers’ yielding rates based on pedestrian race and gender, driver race and gender, and crosswalk design. Elucidating the roles of pedestrians’ race and gender, drivers’ race and gender, and crosswalk design on drivers’ stopping behavior with pedestrians is an important step toward developing policies that promote safe and equitable transportation experiences for all pedestrians.

Project Details

Project Type:
Project Status:
In Progress
End Date:
June 30,2017
UTC Grant Cycle:
Natl Round 2
UTC Funding: