Driving Change: Rethinking Minor Traffic Stops to Advance Equity and Efficiency


Driving Change: Rethinking Minor Traffic Stops to Advance Equity and Efficiency



Pretextual stops, which use minor traffic violations as a pretext for unrelated investigations, disproportionately impact marginalized communities, particularly Black drivers. These stops raise concerns about racial profiling, unequal enforcement, and the erosion of public trust in law enforcement


  1. Black drivers are stopped and searched at higher rates than White and Hispanic drivers, despite having lower instances of drug possession, firearms, or other illegal items.
  2. Black drivers have an annual per-capita stop rate of 20, compared to 14 for White drivers and 9 for Hispanic drivers, resulting in Black drivers being stopped 33% and 50% more often than White and Hispanic drivers, respectively.
  3. Interactions with police during traffic stops have a detrimental effect on political engagement, with individuals who have experienced being pulled over being significantly less likely to participate in the next voting cycle.
  4. Disparities in traffic stops undermine trust, increase tension, and risk police misconduct, while fair and equitable traffic enforcement promotes public safety and community relations.
  5. Policy changes limiting low-level stops have led to significant reductions in traffic stops unrelated to traffic safety, from 25% to just 5% in some jurisdictions


  1. Implement initiatives to address disparities and improve traffic safety, such as limiting low-level stops, prioritizing high-risk violations, and focusing on transparency, bias training, community engagement, and restorative justice practices.

  2. Increase transparency in data collection and reporting of traffic stops, including demographic information, stop outcomes, and regularly publishing data for public review.

  3. Provide comprehensive bias training and education for police officers to recognize and mitigate unconscious biases and promote fair and respectful interactions with motorists.

  4. Engage community members and leaders in shaping enforcement strategies through community-based policing models to address concerns, build trust, and foster collaboration.

  5. Explore restorative justice practices as an alternative to punitive measures for traffic offenses, prioritizing repairing harm, holding officers accountable, and facilitating healing for affected communities.

  6. Establish independent oversight mechanisms and ongoing community involvement in decision-making processes to ensure effective implementation and maintenance of reform measures.