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How We Calculated the Risks of Walking While Black

A Florida Times-Union/ProPublica analysis showed that law enforcement in Duval County, Florida, gives black people a higher proportion of pedestrian tickets than does any other large county in the state. Black pedestrians are nearly three times as likely to receive a ticket as nonblack pedestrians. Our analysis also showed that residents in the three poorest ZIP codes in Jacksonville (Duval County’s largest city) were nearly six times as likely to receive a ticket as were residents of the city’s 34 other ZIP codes.

We also found that the most common ticket type, “crossing the street while not in a crosswalk,” was issued in error more than half of the time.

The Jacksonville sheriff’s office contends that pedestrian tickets are an essential tool in reducing pedestrian deaths from vehicle collisions. But critics, including consultants hired by the city, disagree, saying that only changes to the city’s dangerous layout and infrastructure will improve pedestrian safety. A ProPublica analysis of crash location data did not find a strong relationship between where pedestrian tickets are issued and where crashes involving pedestrian fatalities occur.

Pedestrian tickets can be used to establish probable cause to search people, according to the sheriff’s office second-in-command. Our analysis found that 7 percent of pedestrian tickets came with additional criminal charges, most commonly drug possession, based on court records — likely an underestimate, based on an anecdotal review of the citations.

The Data We Used

We obtained Traffic Citation Accounting Transmission data from Florida Court Clerks & Comptrollers through the Florida Sunshine Law. This dataset contains all tickets issued in the state of Florida from January 2012 to July 2017. Our analysis looked at pedestrian tickets as specified in Florida Statutes (see below for the list of statutes we used in our analysis). We narrowed our data to Duval County because of the completeness of its reporting and because black residents are ticketed at a higher rate there than in any other large county in Florida. This dataset covered 2,232 pedestrian tickets. We removed 24 tickets issued to cyclists, producing a dataset of 2,208 pedestrian tickets.

In the case of 746 tickets, the location where the ticket was issued was not reported in the data provided by Duval County. For these, we obtained the original citations, each as an individual PDF, and recorded the written address. We geocoded those addresses to approximately the block level. For 107 addresses, there was not sufficient information to obtain a latitude and longitude. We excluded those tickets from our geographic analysis.

The pedestrian ticket dataset included the recipient’s race, date of birth, gender and residence to the ZIP code level.

We received Pedestrian Crash Reports from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. This data covered crashes in Duval County from January 2012 to July 2017. Our analysis focused predominantly on the 191 crashes involving pedestrian fatalities. Due to the small sample size, we also looked at crashes involving severe injuries to pedestrians, defined in the data as “incapacitating.” There were 558 such crashes in the time period.

The Pedestrian Crash Report did not include the race of the pedestrians killed. To obtain race, we used a two-step process: First, we matched pedestrians in the crash report with individuals in disposition records and in Duval County’s Summary Report system, using first and last name and date of birth. In cases where we couldn’t find a match in the court data, we used the race identified on death certificates. We were able to determine race in 190 of 194 cases of pedestrian fatality. We did not determine the race of severely injured pedestrians.

We obtained disposition records from Florida Court Clerks & Comptrollers and court records from the Duval Clerk of Courts Summary Report System data to look at the status of cases resulting from pedestrian tickets.

We also received data from the Jacksonville Transportation Authority on bus stop accessibility, including the distance to nearest crosswalk and the presence of a sidewalk.

Finally, we used data from the 2011-2015 American Community Survey 5-year estimates (ACS) for demographic information including race and household income. We used county data to calculate incidence risk ratios. The data on pedestrian tickets includes the ZIP code of ticketed pedestrians. We used ACS data at the ZIP code level to better understand their communities. For analysis related to the location of tickets issued and crashes we used ACS data at the census-tract level.

The Analysis

Our analysis of pedestrian ticket demographics consisted largely of summary statistics from the Traffic Citation Accounting Transmission dataset. To test the likelihood of different populations to receive a pedestrian ticket, we computed the incidence risk ratio and conducted a chi-square test. Results showed an increased likelihood for black and low-income pedestrians to be ticketed, and were statistically significant.

To test the relationship between locations of pedestrian tickets and fatal crashes involving pedestrians, we looked at the number of each by census tract in Duval County. The Pearson’s correlation coefficient between the two was 0.37, demonstrating a weak relationship. We also tested the correlation between pedestrian tickets and crashes that killed or severely injured a pedestrian. The correlation coefficient was 0.57, demonstrating a moderate relationship.

To research the sentencing status of pedestrian tickets, we combined the Traffic Citation Accounting Transmission dataset and disposition records on the common citation number, which is unique to each citation. More than half of the tickets did not appear in disposition records, which Florida Court Clerks & Comptrollers officials told us meant the tickets were unresolved. We verified this by looking up a random sample of unresolved tickets on the Duval County Clerk of Court’s Clerk Online Resource e-Portal.

We used the Duval Clerk of Courts Summary Report System data to understand how often criminal charges were brought in tandem with a pedestrian citation. There was not a common identifier between courts system data and pedestrian ticket data, so we looked at clerk filings that included pedestrian tickets over the same time period as our pedestrian ticket dataset, January 2012 to July 2017. To determine where additional charges were brought alongside pedestrian tickets, we made a subset of the data including only court cases that included both a pedestrian statute violation and another non-pedestrian criminal offense.

Finally, we investigated the enforcement of one statute in particular: “316.130(11) Between adjacent intersections at which traffic control signals are in operation, pedestrians shall not cross at any place except in a marked crosswalk.” We used Google Street View to determine whether traffic signals existed between adjacent intersections for each ticket issued. The majority of Google Street View images we looked at were taken in 2015. For tickets given since then we also referred to a list from the City of Jacksonville and Florida Department of Transportation of street lights installed since 2012. Our investigation found, at minimum, half of the tickets were given in error because there were not traffic signals between the adjacent intersections.

List of Statutes Used for Analysis

  • 316.075(1)(A)3 PE 0 Pedestrian failed to cross within crosswalk with Green Turn Arrow
  • 316.075(1)(B)2 PE 0 Pedestrian Facing Yellow Light must not cross roadway
  • 316.075(1)(C)2b PE 0 Pedestrian Facing Red Light must not enter roadway
  • 316.130(1) PE 0 Pedestrian Failed to Obey Pedestrian Traffic Control Device
  • 316.130(2) PE 0 Pedestrian Entering Roadway Against Steady Red Signal Light
  • 316.130(3) PE 0 Pedestrian Walking in Roadway where Sidewalks are Provided
  • 316.130(4) PE 0 Pedestrian Failed to Walk on Left Shoulder when No Sidewalks Provided
  • 316.130(4) PE 0 Pedestrian Walking in Roadway with Traffic when No Sidewalks Provided
  • 316.130(5) PE 0 Pedestrian Standing on Pavement with Traffic Soliciting Ride, Employment - Business
  • 316.130(5) PE 0 Pedestrian Standing in Roadway for Purpose of Soliciting
  • 316.130(6) PE 0 Pedestrian Standing in/near Street for Purpose of Soliciting Guarding Vehicle
  • 316.130(7)(c) PE 0 Pedestrian Failed to Yield to Traffic when Tunnel or Overhead Walk Provided
  • 316.130(8) PE 0 Pedestrian Suddenly Walking into Path of Vehicle, Impossible to Avoid
  • 316.130(10) PE 0 Pedestrian Failed to Yield to Traffic
  • 316.130(11) PE 0 Pedestrian Failed to Cross in Crosswalk
  • 316.130(12) PE 0 Pedestrian Failed to Cross Road at Right Angle/Shortest Route
  • 316.130(14) PE 0 Pedestrian Crossing Roadway in Intersection Diagonally
  • 316.130(18) PE 0 Pedestrian Walking upon Limited Access Facility or Connecting Ramp
  • 316.1305(2) PE 0 Pedestrian Fishing From Bridge with Posted NO FISHING Signs
  • 316.1575(1) PE 0 Pedestrian Failed to Obey Railroad Crossing Traffic Control Device
  • 316.2045(1) PE 0 Pedestrian Obstructing Flow of Traffic on Public Street

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