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North Carolina Highway Traffic Study, Final Report

NCJ Number
Date Published
July 2003
406 pages
This federally funded research project is a multi-method investigation of the phenomenon referred to as “driving while black” or as “racial profiling” and “racial targeting” within the North Carolina State Highway Patrol (NCSHP).
The 1999 North Carolina Highway Traffic Study, supported by the National Institute of Justice, U.S. Department of Justice, was a multi-method investigation of the phenomenon popularly referred to as “driving while Black” or generically as “racial profiling” and “racial targeting.” The project develops and evaluates a series of alternate methodologies for establishing the degree of racial disparity in traffic stops. It combines demographic analyses, highway observations, surveys of citizens, focus groups with North Carolina State Highway Patrol (NCSHP) troopers to develop methodologies to estimate racial disparity in traffic stops, identify plausible mechanisms producing those disparities, and learn more about the consequences of perceptions of racial disparity in policing for trust in the police. The research attempted to answer four questions: (1) do NCSHP troopers stop minorities, particularly African-Americans on the road at higher rates than they do Whites; (2) once stopped, do African-American citizens and White citizens experience different rates for citations, written warnings, and searches; (3) what factors might account for highway stops; and (4) how do African-Americans and other ethnic minorities experience and respond to traffic stops? On the basis of the analysis, it was concluded that although there is no conclusive evidence of widespread racial disparity exhibited in the actions of the NCSHP troopers in their routine interactions and interventions with drivers, there are some districts and some troopers whose citation rates of African-Americans may warrant further investigation and possible ongoing or intermittent monitoring. Regardless of the interpretation of the empirical evidence of possible racial disparity, the perceptions of bias and of inappropriate treatment on the part of police seem to foster distrust of the police. It is suggested that the NCSHP take actions to ameliorate the perceptions that their behaviors are unfair. Tables and appendices A-G

Date Published: July 1, 2003