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Sandra Bland and "driving while black": Federal data shows big racial gap in traffic stops

Was Sandra Bland a victim of "driving while black"? That's what some people suggested on social media after watching the dashcam video of the 28-year-old woman's arrest, which shows a routine traffic stop for a minor violation — failing to signal while changing lanes — escalate into a struggle and arrest.

It's hard to say what was going through Texas trooper Brian Encinia's mind when he pulled over Bland. But we know Bland didn't feel the stop was justified, accusing Encinia of causing it when she said, "I was getting out of the way. You were speeding up, tailing me, so I moved over, and you stopped me." And we know Encinia allowed the situation to spiral out of control because Bland wouldn't put out a cigarette.

We also know that black drivers are more likely to be stopped by US police. In 2013, the Bureau of Justice Statistics found that about 12.8 percent of black drivers reported being pulled over in 2011, while about 9.8 percent of white drivers and 10.4 percent of Hispanic drivers did.

Black drivers were also more likely to be stopped and searched compared to their white counterparts, according to BJS. About 6.3 percent of all black drivers were stopped and searched, compared with 6.6 percent of Hispanic drivers and 2.3 percent of white drivers.

These disparities are what people are referring to when they say black people are punished for "driving while black." And in Bland's case, they may have been on her mind as she disputed the legitimacy of Encinia's stop.

Watch: Why it's important to film the police

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