Blacks are less likely than whites to use seat belts unless they are driving in states where motorists can be stopped and ticketed for not complying
Researchers at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tenn., also noted the fear of racial profiling -- the illegal targeting of motorists based on skin color -- may be what causes greater compliance among blacks in states with primary seat belt enforcement. In states with secondary seat belt laws, motorists can be cited for a strap violation only if stopped for another offense.
"I think the potential for racial profiling will persist as long as there is any potential for racism," said Nathaniel Briggs, lead author of the study and assistant professor of preventive medicine at Meharry, a historically black medical college. Briggs' research appears in the August issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
Racial profiling has been a source of controversy in New Jersey. As a deterrent, State Police cruisers now are equipped with video cameras.
While previous national studies have found blacks tend to buckle up significantly less often than whites, Briggs and his colleagues discovered that racial differences vary according to seat belt enforcement.
For instance, in the 24 states with secondary seat belt laws, blacks are significantly less likely to wear seat belts than whites, the study showed. This was especially true among younger and older drivers.
In the 25 states with primary seat belt laws, including New Jersey, there was no racial disparity.
So "racial profiling" makes blacks more likely to obey the law. Why is this a bad thing?