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Driving While Black: Effects of Race, Ethnicity, and Gender on Citizen Self-Reports of Traffic Stops and Police Actions

NCJ Number
Criminology Volume: 41 Issue: 1 Dated: February 2003 Pages: 195-220
Richard J. Lundman; Robert L. Kaufman
Date Published
February 2003
26 pages
This article examines citizen's perceptions of their traffic stop encounters with police officers, specifically to explore whether citizen characteristics such as race and gender are a factor in traffic stops.
The authors examined data from the Contacts between Police and the Public: Findings from the 1999 National Survey, which was collected as part of the 1999 National Crime Victimization Survey. A total of 80,543 randomly selected subjects offered self-report data on their total experience with traffic stops, their perception of whether there was a legitimate reason for the traffic stop, and their perception of whether police acted properly during the traffic stop. Results of logic regression analysis, which controlled for other police contacts reported by the respondents, indicated that citizens perceived that police officers made traffic stops for “Driving While Black” and for being male. Results also showed males and females reported identical patterns of traffic stops by race. Additionally, Black and Hispanic citizens were more likely to report that police acted improperly during the stop and lacked a legitimate reason for the traffic stop. The authors include a discussion of the validity of citizen self-report data. Future research should further investigate the dangers of “Driving While Black” using triangulated data generated from police reports, citizen self-reports, and observer reports. Tables, references