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Driving While Black: Bias Processes and Racial Disparity in Police Stops

NCJ Number
Criminology Volume: 44 Issue: 3 Dated: August 2006 Pages: 709-738
Date Published
August 2006
30 pages

This study estimated the degree of racial disparity in police vehicular stops separately for local and State police in North Carolina in the year 2000.


The study generally found a large racial disparity in stops by local police officers and a small racial disparity in stops made by the North Carolina Highway Patrol. In all local police models, a driver's race and age, as well as age of the vehicle stopped were significant predictors of a stop being made. Highway patrol officers' stop decisions, on the other hand, were apparently influenced more by driving behaviors than characteristics of the driver or the vehicle. Data for the study were obtained from the North Carolina Highway Traffic Study's driver survey. Data were collected between June 22, 2000, and March 20, 2001, in a telephone survey of a weighted stratified random sample of 2,920 North Carolina licensed drivers. The sampling frame included only those drivers who had applied for or renewed their licenses in the previous 6 months. The study included a separate record check survey of nearly 600 drivers with known speeding stops in the last year to determine the degree of underreporting of stops to be expected in the larger driver survey. The survey data are reported from the perspective of the driver who has been stopped, not the officer who makes the stop decision. Data revealed the residence location of the respondents and whether they were stopped by the State Highway Patrol or by local police. The respondents were then asked to report whether they were stopped by a State trooper, county sheriff, or local police officer. 5 tables and 60 references

Date Published: August 1, 2006