Using the North Carolina Reverse Record Check Survey (NCRRCS), this study examined whether rates of reporting error by drivers regarding police stops for speeding differed by the race of the drivers and whether any underreporting of such stops by drivers' race might influence estimates of driver racial disparity in police decisions to stop vehicles based on NCRRCS data.
Consistent with past research on self-reports of negative official contacts with police, this study found that most survey participants were willing to report such contacts; however, also consistent with previous research was the finding that African-American drivers were slightly more likely than White drivers to give socially desirable answers (underreporting) to questions about police stops for speeding and other traffic violations. In checking official police records to determine the accuracy of self-reports of police stops for speeding and other traffic violations, findings show that 72.3 percent of White respondents and 62.2 percent of African-American respondents who had been stopped for speeding in the last year self-reported such stops in the survey. This suggests that self-reports of speeding stops by Whites and African-Americans in North Carolina will be underreported by approximately 28 percent and 38 percent, respectively. Since self-reported police stops for speeding will tend to produce greater under-estimates for African-American drivers compared to White drivers, some weighting calculations will be required to approach an accurate estimate of any racial disparity in drivers stopped by police for speeding based on drivers' self-reports. The NCRRCS was based on a sample of drivers who had received a speeding citation in the 6 months before the survey, which was conducted by telephone between July 2000 and February 2001. From this sample, 605 interviews were completed (cooperation rate of 69.5 percent). 4 tables and 62 references