On Driving (and Hailing, and Ridesharing) While Black

Two studies bear out the idea that Black people face continued discrimination in transportation. They drive cautiously to avoid discriminatory traffic enforcement, and they're less likely to get picked up by rideshare.

2 minute read

February 1, 2017, 1:00 PM PST

By Philip Rojc @PhilipRojc

Black Lives Matter

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Amid increased racial rhetoric, Joe Cortright calls attention to the diversity of our lived experiences, even in regular day-to-day transportation. Traffic stops are one problem area. "African-Americans are much more likely than other drivers to be pulled over for routine traffic infractions. Federal data on traffic stops show a clear difference by race: Black drivers are about 31 percent more likely to be pulled over for a traffic infraction than white drivers."

Cortright notes a recent study on transportation system performance, finding that Black drivers, on average, are more cautious than other groups, probably because they fear discriminatory enforcement. "If each year of age reduces your average speed by about three-tenths of one percent, that means that the typical black driver travels at about the same speed as a white driver who is about 26 years older. For example, a 25 year-old black driver would, according to these estimates, be expected to drive about as fast as a 51 year-old white driver."

In another study, researchers looked at rideshare services through a demographic lens. "In theory, at least one of the advantages of [...] computer-based ride-hailing services such as Lyft and Uber is that they should be more race blind."

Nevertheless, the study finds that "drivers for ride-sharing services are prone to discriminate against African Americans, making blacks wait longer for rides when they can identify the race of the ride-hailer and more frequently cancelling rides when alerted to African American-sounding names."

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