Nervous about traffic stops? John Whitehead of The Rutherford Institute is and says you should be too.
From guest writer Joe Cadillic who writes the MassPrivatel Blog
According to The Stanford Open Policing Project which looked at over 100 million police traffic stops in the United States, “Police pull over more than 50,000 drivers on a typical day, more than 20 million motorists every year.”
Does that mean 50,000 people are breaking the law every day? Is there an epidemic of lawbreakers on our streets? Of course not, so why are police stopping 20 million motorists every year? Police across the country don’t just ticket millions of Americans every year, they’re also questioning them.
Unfortunately the Open Policing Project doesn’t mention how many passengers are stopped and questioned by police every year. Many motorists travel with someone so the amount of people being stopped & questioned might be double than the estimated 20 million. The numbers become even more disturbing when the estimated 50,000 motorists stopped each day turns into a conservative estimate of 80,000 or more motorists plus passengers stopped each day.
In a recent Reason.com editorial, Chicago Tribune columnist Steve Chapman wrote in Curbing Traffic Stops would Save Lives that traffic stops are often an excuse for cops to search a car for drugs and guns. He added, “Curtailing police reliance on this pretext would free motorists from being dragooned to ‘consent’ to searches for which the cops lack probable cause.” Chapman continued, “True, the change would let criminals operate at less risk. But hassling the innocent to catch the guilty is an abuse of our constitutional principles. In Illinois last year, police conducted 2.17 million traffic stops. Just 8,938 yielded contraband—one bust for every 242 stops.”
Unfortunately, Chapman goes on in the editorial to extol the virtues of automatic traffic enforcement, a major step in the wrong direction, which most of the online commenters were quick to point out.
On top of traffic stops, did you know that law enforcement use at least fifteen different types of checkpoints to stop and question motorists?
In what country would it be acceptable to stop and question millions of people?
Certainly not America the land of the free, right?
For years, police have had to meet ticket quotas during their shifts. A Google search for “do police have quotas” returned over five million hits, and a Google search for “police ticket quotas 2017” returned close to six million hits.
In 2015, a Boston.com story said Traffic Ticket Quotas are Real. “Officers were told to issue more revenue-generating tickets. Officer Tom Delaney said that officers who didn’t operate under the system wouldn’t get overtime assignments and other perks.”
It’s the same story across the country.
Police departments send text messages to officers on the road reminding them to reach their quotas during their shifts. In 2015, a New York City Police Department (NYPD) officer claimed he was texted about not meeting ticket quotas and denied a night off.
In 2017, the NYPD agreed to pay $56.5 million to people written bogus tickets by police.
If the public knew how much money is being made off of motorists each year from taxes, fines and arrests there would be a public outcry.
The Stanford Open Policing Project points out that police don’t want the public to know how many people are stopped each year. “Some states don’t collect demographics of who police pull over. States that do collect the information don’t always release the data.”
Why do we know how many people are arrested for drunk driving each year but have no data about how many motorists have been ticketed by police?
According to Stanford, “The most common police interaction — the traffic stop — has not been tracked, at least not in any systematic way.”
It’s 2017 and we still don’t know how many motorists are being stopped and ticketed in America!
States like California and Texas have stopped 24-32 million motorists from 2009-2015, while states like Rhode Island and Montana have stopped approximately 500,000-825,000 motorists.
Secrecy is a cop’s number one priority.
The Open Policing Project found that police require less suspicion to search black and hispanic drivers than whites and they’re two or three times more likely to be searched: “After accounting for age, gender, and location, we find that officers ticket, search, and arrest black and hispanic drivers more often than whites… when pulled over for speeding, black drivers are 20% more likely to get a ticket (rather than a warning) than white drivers, and hispanic drivers are 30% more likely to be ticketed than white drivers. Black and hispanic motorists are about twice as likely to be searched compared to white drivers.”
“When we applied the threshold test to our traffic stop data, we find police require less suspicion to search black and hispanic drivers than whites. This double standard is evidence of discrimination,” the findings noted.
This is the first study that shows police are stopping and questioning thousands of motorists every day and millions of passengers every year.
The next time you’re stopped by the police, exercise your right not to speak. To travel freely in America is not a privilege, it is one of our constitutional rights.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this newsletter are those of the author. For the NMA’s list of Traffic Stop Do’s and Don’ts, click here.
A seismic shift appears to be underway with regards to how experts view transportation. The new vocabulary includes words like multimodal and person-level transportation. Transportation experts want to move “people” instead of cars because most cars on the road today are single occupant vehicles or SOVs—not an efficient enough form of transportation apparently. Aren’t motorists though people too? We are not just our cars. We, the people must drive because there are no realistic alternatives and because of the inherent freedom of being able to go where we want, when we want, and how we want.
Congress of the New Urbanism (CNU) website recently issued an article called THE MORBID AND MORTAL TOLL OF SPRAWL which declared that for the past 50+ years U.S. transportation engineers have designed and built thoroughfares that allow drivers to feel comfortable driving carelessly. Wide streets and enormous intersections encouraged urban sprawl, suburbia, and complete automobile dependence. The CNU also had another short and fascinating historical article on how streets turned out this way. Experts continue to complain about congestion and sprawl but no one twisted anyone’s arm to move out to suburbia. Americans made choices and luckily we can still make those choices today.
Currently over 80% of all American adults drive a car wherever they might happen to live. Even though more people are driving more miles now than ever before, roads are safer than at any time in history based on the number of miles driven. Americans drive around 2.18 trillion miles in the current rolling 12-month period. That is 9,800 miles for every person in the country. This correlates to about 26.8 miles per day per person, about 15% more miles driven than a quarter of century ago. If Americans had multimodal transportation choices would they actually use them?
Historically, departments of transportation (local, state and federal) have made decisions based on population. More people driving meant building more roads to move people in cars more quickly. Public transportation was generally factored in as well.
Ironically, even though DOTs have always promoted the car as the primary mode of transportation, the transportation agencies have continuously implemented measures that disrupt and discourage the efficient movement of traffic. Our gas tax money continues to be used to promulgate multimodal transportation agendas which should mean less road and street congestion since less people are supposedly using the roads. This should not mean though the impediment of driving due to lack of road maintenance or the application of traffic calming measures that ultimately worsen the driving experience.
In August, the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE), a trade group representing 13,000 professionals in 90 different countries, announced that departments of transportation (local, state and federal) should not focus so heavily on cars. The ITE comments were in response to the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) proposed rulemaking on “National Performance Management Measures; Assessing the Performance of the National Highway System, Freight Movement on the Interstate System, and Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program”. See this Streetsblog USA article about the topic. Find halfway down a PDF link that gives the ITE full letter and comments.
The ITE has particular concerns about the measure for congestion management. ITE’s International President Paula Flores Benway wrote in her letter to the Federal Highway Administration that the implementation of the delay-based measure for congestion management should be postponed until such time that a measure be based on a multimodal and person-level delay can be developed. If the FHWA would take these suggestions from the ITE to develop these additional measures what kind of impact will that really have on most of us? Very little. What a waste of time and dollars, money that could be used for improving roads now.
The Truth about Cars website recently ran a blog post on THIS IS HOW THEY’LL TAKE YOUR CAR FROM YOU. The author states that we’ll be shamed into giving up our cars. In 10 to 15 years, it might even be difficult to buy a new car that we can drive ourselves. The big automakers no longer call themselves automakers. They are now mobility companies and have invested heavily in carsharing and ridesharing startups.
The media and transportation experts keep harping on the coming carsharing/ridesharing future but doesn’t that put more cars on our streets? Los Angeles currently has a proposal to take 100,000 cars (two percent of all cars in LA) off the street in five years with the idea that they would need to increase the number of cars that are used for carsharing and ridesharing. This is of course a multimodal plan but the question remains: Will that many Angeleno motorists want to give up their cars for good?
Driverless cars have also spurred the idea that more cars will be on the streets than ever before. In some cities, driverless cars will be the de facto public transportation since buses, trams, trolleys, subways and trains are so 20th century. But how would connected and driverless cars work if we cannot even maintain the basic infrastructure that we have right now? This leap of faith that we can improve our infrastructure for the Car of the Future may be misguided.
For the here and now, driving a car will continue to be the primary transportation form that Americans use on a daily basis. Trying to change those dynamics with new vocabulary and social engineering will not change this paradigm anytime soon. The current transportation system is the one we have for better or worse.
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Interstates are some of the safest roads. It makes no sense to put the police on the safest roads, while ignoring the most dangerous roads, unless the goal is revenue. It’s a FINE time to travel through Tennessee. Buckle up, drive safely and watch out of the ticket writers.
Great propaganda piece WKRN.
Is modern traffic enforcement all about dollars instead of safety? An author says a strong yes.
Gary Megge, a lwho works in the Michigan State Police traffic services section says that speed limits need to be set based on the 85th percentile of free flowing traffic.
If speed limits are not set properly, this could pose safety issues for those drivers who are within the 85th percentile, Megge said.
“If we don’t match normal and safe driving behavior, if we try to post a speed limit that doesn’t match, we have a problem,” he said. “We make a large portion of the driving public illegal. That’s not the way we should be doing business.”
The Michigan State Police offers two publications on setting realistic speed limits.