Driving While Black: A Comparison of the Beliefs, Concerns, and Behaviors of Black and White Maryland Drivers

Katrina J. Debnam, Kenneth H. Beck

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration suggests that given the changing demographics of the United States it is important to examine motor vehicle statistics by race and ethnicity. The current study sought to explore differences in traffic safety concerns and driving behaviors between black and white drivers. Methods: An annual, anonymous, random-digit-dial telephone survey was used to collect data between 2003 and 2009 from Maryland drivers. Drivers (N = 5503) were assessed regarding their driving behaviors and perceived risk of receiving a traffic violation. Results: Results showed that black drivers perceived a greater likelihood of being stopped for driving under the influence (DUI), for not wearing a seat belt and for speeding than white drivers. These differences were found among drivers with or without a history of being ticketed. Black drivers were also more likely to report a variety of risky driving behaviors than white drivers. However, black drivers were not more likely to report receiving a ticket or citation in the last month after controlling for demographic factors, risky driving behaviors, and geographic region of the state, where traffic enforcement may vary. Conclusions: Findings indicate that black drivers are not more likely to be ticketed, despite perceptual biases that may exist among some drivers. These differences appear to be explained by demographic as well as regional factors. These results highlight the need for more research to understand the potential differences in driving behaviors between racial and ethnic groups. More research is also needed to develop countermeasures for racial and ethnic groups most at risk for motor vehicle violations and crashes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)599-603
Number of pages5
JournalTraffic Injury Prevention
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2011


  • Blacks
  • Driving behaviors
  • Ethnic groups
  • Traffic citation
  • Whites

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Safety Research
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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