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Race, Ethnicity, and PolicingNew and Essential Readings$
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Stephen K. Rice and Michael D. White

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780814776155

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: March 2016

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9780814776155.001.0001

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Driving While Black

Driving While Black

A Statistician Proves That Prejudice Still Rules the Road

(p.32) Chapter 2 Driving While Black
Race, Ethnicity, and Policing

John Lamberth

NYU Press

This chapter turns to a more specific description of the “symbolic assailant” by exploring John Lamberth's 1993 census of violators on the New Jersey Turnpike. The findings are considered seminal in light of its sizable impact on public perceptions of “driving while Black/Brown” and as one of the earliest efforts to apply research design and statistical analysis to claims of racial profiling by police. To establish a benchmark, or “denominator” (i.e. the number of drivers of a particular race on the turnpike over a period of time), and to gauge driver behavior (i.e. violators vs. nonviolators, by race), Lamberth set up surveys that afforded both metrics: one a static assessment of drivers and race from predetermined observation points, the other being a novel “rolling survey” to assess speeding. The results suggested that blacks were almost five times more likely to be stopped by the police for questioning.

Keywords:   symbolic assailant, John Lamberth, census, New Jersey Turnpike, public perception, racial profiling, police, driver behavior, race

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