A new survey illuminates the very real dangers of literally “walking while black.”
In addition to rogue police officers targeting people of color on the street ,~ ATAGEND a recent survey from Portland State University found that drivers are less likely to stop for black pedestrians.
The study, a follow-up from one conducted in 2014, administered exams utilizing identically garmented black and white volunteers attempting to cross the same intersection. The 2014 study exposed black male pedestrians awaited 32% longer than white male pedestrians for vehicles to stop. The 2017 research expanded on these tests to include black and white women and marked versus unmarked crosswalks.
When the crosswalk was unmarked, the stopping rate was relatively low across the board, regardless of race or gender — and irrespective of Oregon law. However, when zebra stripes were added to the crosswalk, drivers were more likely to stop for white pedestrians, regardless of their own race or gender. In these marked crosswalks, cars stopped for white pedestrians 57% of the time and black pedestrians 44% of the time.
And the drivers who did stop for black pedestrians tended to crowd the crosswalk, devoting black pedestrians less room to traverse safely.
The researchers also measured where drivers stopped for pedestrians. A driver stopping on or before the stop line is more than 10 feet away from the intersection, giving the pedestrian ample room to cross. When the pedestrian was a black male, drivers stopped after the stop line in 71% of the trials. For black girls, it was 67%.
Yes, you’re reading this data correctly — the very tool meant to keep all pedestrians safe is generally effective only when the pedestrians are white.
Studies like this don’t necessarily entail everyone behind the wheel is racist. But it’s likely that implicit biases are at work.
Since the race and ethnicity of the driver had little impact on whether they yielded to pedestrians, it’s unlikely that they’re driving around with malicious intent to injure or harm pedestrians of colouring. However, subconscious and implicit biases — distastes, predilections, or postures that we prescribe to certain people or communities without even realizing it — are real and powerful. When we have to build quick decisions, our brains often rely on these implicit biases, which can have unintended( even deadly) repercussions.
“Driving is a situation where you’re processing a lot of information, ” Kimberly Kahn of the Transportation Research and Education Center at Portland State University told The Oregonian. “It’s in those situations where the most subtle and implicit biases can impact decision-making.”
Some of these implicit biases may be why people of color are overrepresented when it comes to pedestrian fatalities.
In 2014, nearly 5,000 people in the U.S. were killed while walking. Non-white someones are approximately 35% of the U.S. population but make up simply over 46% of pedestrian deaths . Some of this can be attributed to the higher prevalence of pedestrians of color and the way certain streets and neighborhoods are designed with minimal safe traverses. However, even controlling for these factors, a inequality persists — it’s simply not safe to walk in some neighborhoods.
But there are ways to combat both unsafe walk-to conditions and our own biases.
Increasing the number of drivers stopping for pedestrians across the board will inherently improve the number of drivers stopping for people of color. This means pushing local leaders for better crosswalk signage and street differentiate. It’s also important to implement smart design, investigate where pedestrians are most at risk for being struck, and hold what measures can be put in place to slow cars or change traffic patterns.
And it’s crucial that we work on our own implicit biases, first by acknowledging that there were. It can be difficult to take a good hard look at why we believe the way we do , but by investigating our own preconceived notions and attitudes, we can induce great strides toward dismantling or changing them.
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