News Stories

Traffic Profiling

Blacks often complain that they are singled out for traffic violations more often than whites--that in effect, they are being punished for "driving while black."

But what about blacks (and Hispanics) driving while female?

Sociologists analyzing police actions during routine traffic stops found that black and Hispanic women are just as likely as white men to be ticketed, arrested or searched during a traffic stop--in other words, this happens much less often than it does for their male counterparts.

Researcher Jeremy Briggs says, "Racial profiling has really come back into political discussions, especially in national media. It still matters in traffic stops."

Briggs looked at reasons for a traffic stop, some of which included speeding, turning lane violations, traffic light or stop sign violations, drunk driving check lanes and other reasons. Speeding was the most common reason for a traffic stop. He also looked at outcomes of the traffic stop: if the driver received a warning, if the driver received a ticket, if the driver was arrested or if the driver was searched.

He says, "In a real scenario, any of those outcomes are possible at the same time. A person could receive a ticket and be arrested. Or they could be searched but just receive a warning. There are a number of possibilities in any given stop."

When compared with men, women were 23% less likely to be ticketed, 55% less likely to be arrested and 76% less likely to be searched when stopped by police. Women were more likely to only receive a warning or have no outcome when stopped by police during a traffic stop. Briggs also studied the race of police officers during traffic stops. He found that officer race does not appear to have a significant effect on the outcome of the traffic stop. Rather, the outcome seemed to be most affected by driver's characteristics.

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