Police Abuse

Curbing Traffic Stops Would Save Lives

So why do cops rely so much on the practice? Enforcing traffic laws is a large share of what they do.


Richard Tsong-Taatarii/ZUMA Press/Newscom

Last weekend, in the wee hours of the night, Chicago police stopped a car carrying four people. When officers approached it, they saw a passenger holding a gun. The outcome was a familiar one: an 18-year-old man was shot by police.

Too often, traffic stops lead to tragedy. Philando Castile was shot to death in his car by a police officer in Minnesota. Last week, a mistrial was declared for a University of Cincinnati officer prosecuted for killing 43-year-old Samuel DuBose, whose car had a missing front license plate. Sandra Bland, yanked out of her car by a Texas state trooper after allegedly failing to signal a lane change, died in jail. All three victims were black.

Cops are also at risk. In March, a police officer died in a shootout with a passenger who ran from a car that had been pulled over in Tecumseh, Okla. In June, a police lieutenant was fatally gunned down after a stop in Newport, Arkansas.

When an officer stops and approaches a vehicle, both the cop and the driver are vulnerable. Any wrong move or misjudgment can turn the encounter deadly.

"Traffic stops and domestic violence are the highest-risk calls—you have no idea what you're walking into," John Gnagey, executive director of the National Tactical Officers Association, told the Orlando Sentinel in 2010.

Even when motorists get off unharmed, the experience can be frightening, infuriating or humiliating. Stops breed fear and distrust of law enforcement, particularly among minorities.

So why do cops rely so much on the practice? Enforcing traffic laws is a large share of what they do. Ignoring motorists who drive too fast or ignore signals could foster chaos on the road.

But there are other ways to combat bad driving. University of California, Berkeley law professor Christopher Kutz points out that police in France do traffic stops at less than one-third the rate that American cops do. In England and Wales, it's one-fourth.

The obvious alternative is using cameras. Speeders and red-light runners can be detected and ticketed by electronic means. Upon paying the fine, says Kutz, the offenders could be required to show that they are licensed and insured.

I've gotten citations from red-light and speed cameras, and while I resented the fines, I was grateful that I wasn't detained on the roadside by an armed officer. The time I got a mere warning for (barely) failing to come to a complete stop on an empty suburban street after midnight was considerably less pleasant.

Being a gray-haired white male, I've been pulled over only three times in my adult life. Castile, 32, had been through that experience 49 times—and "was rarely ticketed for the reason he was stopped," according to the StarTribune of Minneapolis-St. Paul.

Joel Anderson, an African-American reporter for BuzzFeed, said on Twitter last month that he's been stopped more than 30 times since he started driving—including five times for seatbelt violations when he was wearing his seatbelt.

Traffic stops are often an excuse for cops to search a car for drugs and guns. Curtailing police reliance on this pretext would free motorists from being dragooned to "consent" to searches for which the cops lack probable cause.

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.

The rare instances when police find evidence of a crime, Kutz told me, "don't justify the enormous social costs of widespread police interventions." This is an extremely inefficient way of detecting drug and gun crimes.

It's also often discriminatory. "Minorities are more likely to be asked for consent to search, and less likely to have contraband," notes Karen Sheley, police practices director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois.

The best option is not to abolish police traffic stops entirely, but to use them only when absolutely necessary. Accidents and impaired driving would require cops to deal face-to-face with motorists. But police could address missing license plates and broken taillights by taking photos and issuing tickets electronically.

One of the chief purposes of law enforcement is enhancing public safety. Curtailing traffic stops wouldn't make the roads more dangerous. But it would save the lives of motorists and police who are now put in peril for no good reason.


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  1. More red light cameras? Fuck that. If I pull up to an intersection and there are no cars around, why do I need to sit there like an idiot? The whole concept of traffic lights is stupid and outdated. Traffic circles work much better, for example. But the best way to find out is to privatize roads and let the markets figure out how to guide the flow of cars.

    1. Yep. Red light cameras are bullshit. Another fail for Chapman.

      1. In fact, this is how I feel about Chapman……..


    2. Red light cameras are just a way for cities to print money.

      100% agree that traffic lights are primitive and outdated. In other words, a government solution.

    3. Chapman has possibly forgotten that red light cameras are one of the things responsible for flooding poor people with expensive tickets they can’t pay, thus getting fisted by the state harder.

      1. Fisted? Harder? Does the State have the common decency to give the guy a reach around?

        1. Does the State have the common decency to give the guy a reach around?

          No. You just be grateful for the rare occasion when they use lube.

    4. Well, nothing stops anyone from building private roads, so, why aren’t they? It is utterly simplistic to claim that privatizing roads would be a panacea. How would the inevitable mix between different providers be resolved? How would payment be made? Would there be price controls, so the provider in front of my house cannot charge all tehy want? That would be a monopoly, after all.

  2. This is an extremely inefficient way of detecting drug and gun crimes.

    My guess is the vast majority of the cases they detect aren’t things I think should be illegal anyway.

    1. Agreed. Traffic stops are the mobile version of stop and frisk. It’s pretty rare fore people to commit rape and murder in moving vehicles. Most traffic stops are fishing expeditions in search of disfavored substances.

  3. Ticketing through cameras results in massive invasions of privacy and surveillance, as well as circumvention of due process; not a good idea. And it’s also frequently abused in places that allow it.

    As for “saving lives”, it is far from clear that reducing police stops and altercations with police “saves lives”, since those stops remove criminals from the street as well.

    Why do I even bother looking at the byline? It was, of course, another article by that blithering idiot, Chapman.

  4. Even when motorists get off unharmed, the experience can be frightening, infuriating or humiliating. Stops breed fear and distrust of law enforcement, particularly among minorities.

    I was harassed by a state trooper for *GASP* sitting in my car in the parking lot of my office building. It was under the pretext that people were smoking grass and shooting up heroine in the area. This was a parking lot of an office building located in a major shopping center. IOW it was total b.s.

    The obvious alternative is using cameras. Speeders and red-light runners can be detected and ticketed by electronic means.

    Then how am I to face my accuser?

    1. “Then how am I to face my accuser?”

      Still clinging to that old outdated piece of paper, aren’t you?
      Skynet knows you, why do you need to know Skynet?
      Those cameras are controlled by computers, and computers never, never make mistakes. And the computers are controlled by good old fashioned corporations with absolutely no financial incentive to fudge the programming a little bit. I mean, it’s not like they get a share on the fines or anything.

  5. “But police could address missing license plates…by taking photos and issuing tickets electronically”

    Silly Chapman…are cameras able to capture VINs now?

    1. Or, we could just do away with license plates.

  6. Curtailing police reliance on this pretext would free motorists from being dragooned to “consent” to searches for which the cops lack probable cause.

    This is wildly optimistic. You really think the cops won’t just come up with a new pretext? They view the 4th Amendment as an enemy to be defeated.

  7. Or you could just have fewer inane traffic laws to enforce.

    1. Fewer laws? What are you, some kind of anarchist?!?

      1. YES!

        Also, stretches of Aubobanen without speed limits are no higher in deaths per mile traveled than US interstates.

        1. edit!

          1. To be fair, German drivers are meticulous about things like signaling their intentions to change lanes and such. Most of the drivers where I live are a bunch of faggoty fucking retards who can’t be bothered to pay the slightest bit of attention when they get behind the wheel.

    2. Yeah, this jumped out at me pretty clearly but then again it’s Chapman. His solution will always boil down to more government, and worse more hidden government just out of sight.

      More red light camera’s, huh? Yeah, sure, because making the law better is just unrealistic right? Jesus.

  8. Hey–now the surveillance state is libertarian–what next?

    Ooooh! I bet they’ll come up with some libertarian philosophy about people contributing what they’re able and getting what they need!

    Yes, I know it’s Chapman, but someone at reason greenlights publishing these pieces.

  9. I might support more camera enforcement if the traffic laws were even close to sane, but they aren’t. The only reason they are tolerable now is that using cops to physically pull people over means they are only sporadically enforced. Widespread automated enforcement would lead to either: 1) every driver getting dozens of tickets a day; or 2) traffic jams the likes of which we’ve never seen. Can you imagine if everyone actually drove 55 on the highway? Or came to a dead stop at every stop sign? Didn’t make a left turn right after the light turned red?

    1. This is why everyone is so interested in ‘automated vehicles’. Except the State. The State isn’t sure if it’s for or against them because on the one hand automated vehicles means they couldn’t write tickets for revenue anymore but it would let them track everyone and all their movements much more easily. Not to mention they could effectively shut down the grid when ‘bad things’ happen so that no one can travel.

      Plus, you could never ever run from the cops. Ever. Although they could probably just check out what you’re doing inside the car remotely whenever they felt like it, so it would be easy to just route you into the police station when they see you doing something ‘illegal’ in the vehicle.

      Good thing it’s a pipe dream that will won’t happen in my lifetime. It would be something straight out of my nightmares, I think.

      1. I have to disagree on your timeline. I think they’ll be available in 5-10 years and affordable to the general public in 15-20 years. I hope you live longer.

  10. Put cameras in police cars, and change the law so that what is criminal is ‘driving unsafely’. Make the fine a large one, and be prepared to have actual trials. The decision to trigger the camera is in the hands of a human being, who has to sit in court at some point.

    Why? As noted, traffic stops are dangerous for everybody concerned. Red-light and Speed Cameras have no judgement (what if you’re speeding because the traffic flow is speeding, and being slower isn’t safe?” and have problems with the right of the accused to confront the accuser. Also, there tends to be a gap between what the law is stated to be and what is actually enforced as reasonable. Often posted speed limits are not actually legal (most States have rules about what speeds can be posted where). It doesn’t take long for a local government to get addicted to the money brought in by camera enforcement of unreasonable laws (why didn’t you stop at the line? Because sight lines made it unsafe), and then there’s a lawsuit, and they end up having to give back millions they just don’t have. In many cases, States have taken to charging non-returnable court costs to hold a traffic trial, which is just a new depth of fascist assholery. Robo cameras cannot be a solution for traffic problems. They sound reasonable until you start looking at the history of how they are actually used.

    1. Make harm criminal, and imminently unavoidable threat. Nothing else. You speed but cause no accidents and don’t scare anybody? No harm, no foul, no crime.

      If you’re speeding twice as fast as everybody else on the freeway, changing lanes, tailgating, cutting people off, that’s threats galore. Video it, there’s your evidence for a jury to decide.

      Same speed on an almost empty freeway, changing lanes well away from other cars, passing a couple of lanes over where there’s no danger of collision? No harm, no threat, no foul, no crime.

      Driving drunk, slow, in the slow lane? Probably not even a threat unless you’re wobbling all over the road and people have to slow way down to avoid you, in which case the only harm is blocking the road. But cause an accident while drunk, the the drunkenness itself is evidence of intent to be grossly negligent.

      Things are so much simpler when you reduce crime to its fundamental nature — crime is harm, whether assault or theft. Throw in “imminently unavoidable threats” and you’ve got all the bases covered. Add that all punishment is restitution for all damages, including future income, loss of companionship, etc, and all cases expenses, and you’ve got an easy way to set the punishment.

      1. I agree. There are far too many laws that make some behavior illegal because it might, possibly, lead to harm.

    2. Robo cameras cannot be a solution for traffic problems. They sound reasonable until you start looking at the history of how they are actually used.

      Don’t forget the habit that a lot of local governments have of shortening the length of the yellow lights after installing red light cameras. Which ends up being less safe because now paranoid drivers slam on their brakes when the light goes yellow, and get rear ended by the guy behind them.

      1. The thing is, local governments are run by people who want to DO SOMETHING about various problems. That there is a limit to how much money they are going to be given is a source of constant aggrevation to them. We haven’t – yet – gotten to the point of flatly tellling them, shut up, do what’s put before you, and work toward retirement, or get the blankety blank out.

        It’s coming, though.

      2. who is following too closely. why? Because the coppers NEVER ticket for that one.. in fact, they do it themselves all the time. With today’s dash cams, there is plenty of evidence to put before the magistrate. Frame timing can establish the following distance and speed, there are well known formulae for calculating following distances in varying conditions.

  11. Most traffic stops could be eliminated with loser pays: if the cop can’t prove what he pulled you over for, the police pay for all your expenses. Of course, this requires an independent judiciary.

    The cases where they claim defective brake lights or similar nonsense could be prevented far more easily: if that’s what they claim, then that’s what they write the ticket for, and that’s what they have to prove in court. “Proof” doesn’t mean mere cop testimony, it means solid irrefutable evidence, such as video or roadside test with independent witnesses.

    You could eliminate 99% (SWAG) of traffic stops just with that rule alone. You could eliminate most of the other traffic stops with an independent judiciary enforcing loser pays.

    1. A plastic brake light lens is no match for a nightstick. I think Chief Wiggum pulled that trick on Homer one time. Dash cam you say? Wasn’t working. Body camera was malfunctioning too.

      It all comes down to FYTW, and cops behave as if they ARE the law, and god help any “civilian” who dares make eye contact with one of the king’s men.

      1. I know all that, but you’re postulating that current conditions where judges always back cops continue unabated, which defeats the whole point of speculation.

        I also said proof in the form of video. One of my other changes would be to make perjury punishable by whatever punishment you would have inflicted on your victim, and if you forgot to turn on the dashcam, that’s obstruction of justice, and perjury as far as I’m concerned.

        Take your lack of imagination elsewhere. Infest someone else’s comment.

        1. What crawled up the commentariat’s collective ass and died? I love your original comment. Sounds great to me, and we could see a whole lot fewer people in jail or paying fines, and/or a whole lot more people willing to contest their tickets, once judges start realizing that just because a cop says so, doesn’t make it true. I’ve read of a few cases lately in the Chicago suburbs of judges openly castigating cops who were caught in lies (for minor traffic cases and such, not the usual “fear for my life so I’m going to blast away” lies). Seems to me like rooting out the mentality that all cops are heroes and must always be obeyed/trusted is the way we will eventually get there. It takes one hell of a lot of imagination to imagine the day that will actually be true. In my imagination, it usually involves bodies in blue swinging from lamp posts.

    2. Where I live, many of the judges are former LEO’s and/or prosecutors. So the cops word is usually gospel to them.

  12. So why do cops rely so much on the practice? Enforcing traffic laws is a large share of what they do. Ignoring motorists who drive too fast or ignore signals could foster chaos on the road.

    Um, no. Enforcing traffic laws is a major source of revenue for governments all across this country. They are rarely there when people are not driving safely. Most traffic enforcement involves hiding behind signs when the speed limit changes from something moderately reasonable to outright absurd. It’s about revenue, not safety.
    It trains Americans to drive according to the signs, not the conditions. First snow storm of the year I see a car in the ditch every five miles. The people were driving according to the signs, not the conditions.
    Another absurd unintended consequence of government greed.

    1. For example around where I live their favorite speed trap is at the bottom of a big hill where the speed limit changes from 55 to 45. Anyone going over 55 gets a ticket. That’s not traffic safety. That’s revenue.

      1. Most of,our arterial speed limits in town are 30 mph. Where it should be more like 40-45 mph. In fact, outside of uncontrolled residential streets, most of our speed limits are 10-15 mph lower than they should be.

    2. Red light cameras are all about revenue too. In addition, the municipalities usually change the timing of the lights outside the safe and legal timing in order to ensnare more people and raise more money (IE the make the yellow light too short for the speed limit of the intersection) which causes more accidents as well. This is a well known, documented and litigated problem. It’s like asset forfeiture, any chance people in government get to use their position of authority to commit organized crime they will take it. But yeah, this seems like a great idea, we should also put camera’s in everyone’s house to make sure they are using their aerosol cans only in the prescribed manner and fine and imprison people who aren’t.

      Why the writers at reason are advocating that we should use big government solutions and increase government surveillance of innocent citizens is beyond me. The other thing we could do is insist that people you know, just follow the damn law and not get into running gun battles with and assault police officers when they are stopped. Enforce the law? What a crazy idea.

  13. “Last weekend, in the wee hours of the night, Chicago police stopped a car carrying four people. When officers approached it, they saw a passenger holding a gun. The outcome was a familiar one: an 18-year-old man was shot by police.”

    Wait, what? That’s a pretty weak example to lead with, I hope this gets better.


    Oh, it’s Steve Chapman.

    1. I had that thought too. I mean, who the fuck is brandishing a pistol when they get pulled over and. Not expecting bad shit to happen? I’m not a fan of the cops, but in this case it’s hard to blame them when things escalated quickly.

  14. Curtailing traffic stops would indeed save lives, but using ticket cameras to reduce traffic stops is the wrong method.

    Red light and speed cameras are very expensive, typically $3,000 to $5,000 per month per camera. The will produce profits above their own high costs ONLY when used in areas where the traffic safety engineering parameters are deliberately done improperly and less-safely so that enough tickets will be given to safe drivers to cause the cameras to produce profits. Speed cameras are almost always used only where the posted limits are improperly and less-safely set at least 8 to 10 mph below the safest 85th percentile speed levels. Red light cameras are almost always used only where the yellow intervals are set from 0.5 to 1.5 seconds too short for the actual perception/reaction times and actual approach speeds of at least 85% of the drivers. These deliberate engineering “errors” are used so the cameras will ticket a very high percentage of safe drivers who endangered no one – for the improper purpose of camera profits.

    Ticket cameras should be illegal in every state, as they are in some already. They are profit programs, not safety programs.

    James C. Walker, National Motorists Association

    1. I’ve been a member of the NMA for over 30 years. It’s an organization that all libertarians should look into joining.

  15. We all want our men and women in blue to be safe.

    But traffic stops if done correctly, ARE ABOUT SAFETY! To the public at large.

    Whether that be reckless driver, a impaired driver, real drug dealers (not the people shaken down over dubious claims of “drugs” that are not there).

    And on that scamera suggestion, ARE YOU NUTS!

    The Abuses of traffic scameras builds by the day.

    Whether you have RLC that mainly “cite” on split second or right turn on red, to speed scameras that cite on every lower tolerances (as low as 1 km/h by the way), their purpose is MONEY, not “safety”.

    True safety are TRAFFIC STOPS!

    Scameras ARE NOT “safety” but a revenue scam masquerading as “safety” to benefit private companies.

    This “editorial” could have been better written.

  16. The obvious alternative is using cameras. Speeders and red-light runners can be detected and ticketed by electronic means. Upon paying the fine, says Kutz, the offenders could be required to show that they are licensed and insured.
    Under the US Constitution, you have a right to confront the witnesses against you. How do you confront a camera? How do cross examine a camera?

    Cameras and other tools do not prove guilt of violating a criminal statute but are simply evidence that can be used in context to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

  17. Speed limits are too low, which gives police too much discretion in stopping people for speeding. Just about everyone speeds on highways, and it’s usually understood that you can go 5-10 over without much risk of being stopped.

    One idea I’ve kicked around is to raise all highway speed limits by 10-15 MPH (maybe more on big, reasonably straight divided highways) and then strictly enforce it as a limit, rather than as the sort of recommended speed that speed limits are treated as now.

    1. You know who else has higher speed limits?

      In all seriousness, the krauts do seem to understand driving and traffic. Probably has a lot more to do with homogeneous culture and an ingrained “go along to get along” mentality, than with the policies and practices themselves. Probably also helps that their polizei aren’t treated as revenue enforcement officers, their court system is not as adversarial, the list goes on.

      1. Herms don’t mess around with driving. You run out of gas on the autobahn, that’s a ticket. Cupholders? Like you would actually do something other than drive in your car? Crazy. (At least when I drove there decades ago.)

        1. Both hands on ze wheel, bitte. The cupholders in my wife’s VW were an afterthought, at best. They popped out from the dash, obstructed the radio, and collapsed under the weight of anything more than a can of soda (provided it would even fit in the first place).

          1. So damn true. Then again, it’s not like they’re rolling with a 64 oz. Big Gulp.

        2. After driving in Germany, I realized why German cars lagged in being equipped with cup holders and cruise control. Driving upwards of 130mph tends to command one’s attention. I for one LOVE it!

      2. Generally, I agree that driving/traffic/traffic laws are much more reasonable in Germany. Shitloads of speeding cameras and such, but generally the locations for all of them are publicly posted. And, they are set according to the speed limits which usually are set at a reasonable level.

        But, “homogeneous culture”? Not in Germany. I think Germany is second only to the US as an immigration destination.

        IMHO, it’s more related to the fact that Right-of-Way laws are taken seriously there, but not evenly slightly in the US.

        1. But, “homogeneous culture”? Not in Germany. I think Germany is second only to the US as an immigration destination.

          Nevertheless, the “culture” is relatively homogeneous. And “following the rules” is a big part of it across all groups. Here in America, some of us follow the rules, some of us ignore the rules, some actively break the rules, etc.

          1. Well, yes and no. Lots of cities have issues with people that don’t want to play along with the community’s standards and commit plenty of crime (particularly immigrants in the last ten-twenty years). How much of that is real vs. blame is a different story, but there’s at least enough to justify the existence of a stereotype.

            But, I also concede that they are much more likely to follow things like traffic rules and signs (although, i’ve always mentally chalked that up to their enforcement). If a variable speed limit sign changes from 70 to 50, they slow down to 50. In the US, when the VSL sign goes from 55 to 45, no one even considers slowing down from their current speed of 75-80.

          2. Germany is at the crossroads of Europe. Lots of non locals driving there.

        2. Point taken on the homogeneous culture. In many of the rural parts of Bavaria where I spend time, it’s still absolutely homogeneous. But after you see the 35th doner kebab shop in a larger city, it’s anything but. This is purely anecdotal, but the only people my brother-in-law complains about on the autobahn are the eastern european and Turkish truck drivers, who really do drive like idiots compared to your typical German.

          And yes on right-of-way being taken seriously (i.e., alles ist in ordnung). Half of the time when I get to a 4-way stop sign in the US, the car on the other side who was there before me waves me through. It’s usually not a being-nice thing; I can usually tell they have no idea what the hell they should do.

          1. Yeah, recently most of the time I spend in Germany is in the larger cities. I wish is wasn’t that way. Lived in Bamberg for year and a half and spent a lot of time down in southern Bavaria. Beautiful.

            To me, for the most part, cities are cities. Spend time in Frankfurt or Munich (or Vienna, Rotterdam, Manchester, etc.) and you’ll find substantial racial/national/cultural diversity; just like NYC, Chicago, Boston, etc. But, a small village; that’s outside of a small town; that’s outside of a small city… those places are definitely a different story.

      3. Because they have extensive public transportation, Europeans can get away with having much more stringent requirements for drivers’ licenses and car registration. No half-blind octogenarians or rusty old heaps allowed on the roads. That makes it safe for them to have higher speeds and more relaxed traffic control than in the US. Here, where most people live out of the range of usable public transportation, having a driver’s license is a near-necessity in order to be employed and participate fully in our way of life, so we are forced to have very lax standards concerning who is allowed to drive and the condition of vehicles.

      4. You know who else has higher speed limits?

        Hoffman-La Roche?

  18. Enforcing traffic laws Extracting revenue from the peasantry is a large share of what they do.


  19. It’s only going to get worse than better now that every cop car will soon be equipped with license plate readers.

    My state, PA, has even eliminated registration date stickers for your plate because they’re no longer necessary for a cop to determine if you forgot to renew, because of plate readers.

  20. Ending the War on Drugs would stop the fishing expeditions.

    1. Ending the War on Drugs is a step in the right direction on many fronts, but I don’t think it will stop fishing. Maybe slow it down a bit, which is good, but not stop.

  21. Traffic stops lead to most arrests by patrol officers than any other activity. Traffic stops for seatbelt violations or a burnt out license plate light are made because the officer thinks something isn’t right. As long as traffic laws allow police to do primary stop on drivers for simple violations like seatbelts, officers will use these type stops to stop drivers for simple suspicion by the officer.

    In Arizona we have zero tolerance “safety corridors” where DPS officers and drug task force units use traffic stops for 1-2 mph over the speed limit, officers use these stops to justify stops looking for drugs.

    1. Yet, it never fails to amaze me when people are found to have a huge haul of illegal drugs on board when they are stopped fr speeding! I would think most, that would be carrying contraband, would be the ones that would try to follow the laws. Maybe they could rationalize a way to stop those of us following of the laws and driving 55 mph!…..(;-P…You know! Those are the guys most likely carrying contraband!

  22. Someone mentioned traffic lights are “outdated”. I’m curious to know what could replace them in an old city with lots of pedestrians.

    1. Chicken?

  23. Legalize drugs, reaffirm the right to keep and bear arms, destroy red light cameras on sight, re-task all traffic cops to Washington DC for white collar crime investigations…..

    *wakes up sticky*

  24. This article tells you everything you need to know about why traffic stops are a thing:


    TL; DR:

    1) MONEY
    2) Pretext for Terry stops. “Drugs were found during a routine traffic stop”, my ass.

  25. How’s about the jurisdictions change speed limits to something reasonable instead of the ridiculously slow speeds now posted? In Texas, some places are POSTED at 80 and 85 mph, and there is no separate limit for trucks. On a recent trip there, driving a few thousand miles inside that state, traffic was almost always moving briskly but safely. Few were “speeding”. I ran about five or so UNDER the limit.. as fast as I care to drive that beast of mine due to mileage dropping signficantly much above 75. But that’s MY choice. The whole time I was in Texas, driving nearly every day, I did not see ONE wreck. Nope, not one. Arizona and up the west coast, plenty. WHY? The insane slow speed in the coast states, plus the even more insane ten to fifteen mile an hour lower speed for trucks, created hazardous situations everywhere. The ONLY times traffic moved freely was when there were no coppers out. Yes, England have speed cameras… and their traffic is abysmal on the motorways. And everyone knows where the stupid cameras are, slows down for them, and then boots it to get where they’re going. They also have something there that we don’t… the practice of “ringing”.

    1. Most “traffic enforcement” is an obnoxious form of revenue generation, that adds NOTHING to road safety. In my area freeways are posted at 60, trucks often 55. When there are coppers about, everyone is doing just the limit. As soon as they “occupy themselves” with a “victim”, and there are no more coppers about, EVERYONE speeds up to 70 – 75. But there will often be one stubborn dweeb occupying the left lane being a “good little boy” and ONLY doing the posted limit…. new traffic jam, someone caught unawares hits someone else, the one SAFETY issue they REFUSE to enforce is following too close… and so we get ANOTHER multicar pileup when someone trying to get round the left lane slowpoke, miscalculates by an inch or two….. BOOM….. a million bucks or more, all included, in damage, injury, ambulances, lawyers, repairs….. and MAYBE one ticket for the guy who first hit…
      Coppers need to change their MO and patrol for true SAFETY issues… and speed is almost never truly in that category.

  26. You say “Traffic stops are often an excuse for cops to search a car for drugs and guns. Curtailing police reliance on this pretext would free motorists from being dragooned to “consent” to searches for which the cops lack probable cause.”

    Traffic stops may be made due to “reasonable suspicion” of a connection to a crime. (Teens driving at 3am in an area where drag racing was recently reported.) One has to be able to explicitly enunciate the suspicions.

    “Probable cause” is reached when evidence is seen (“plain view”), smelled (“plain smell”), or based on the person’s behavior that is justifies arrest (i.e., giving false information). If the person is arrested for any reason, (such as an open criminal warrant), the office may search the vehicle “coincident to the arrest.” Probable cause as a requirement is moot.

    These are exceptions to the 4th Amendment warrant clause that are well-established and regularly re-confirmed by the Supreme Court. If anybody is being “dragooned,” they should file suit.

    A traffic stop, esp. in a high crime area, even for a broken tail light, is a routine tactic to interdict and discover people with warrants, unlicensed drivers, stolen cars, fugitives, DUI drivers, child abductions, etc., all within a clear legal framework. Red light cameras can’t do any of this stuff.

  27. If my insurance company wanted to use traffic cameras in order to give me a discount, I’d support that, but I don’t want the cameras to be used by government. The problem is statistics. If you drive, you will run red lights sometimes.

    You should certainly know about it when you do so (if I was oblivious, by all means notify me): how else can you learn from your mistake? If it’s done an excessive amount, you need to pay for more insurance coverage so your safer-driving neighbors don’t have to. But there is nothing to be gained by having to pay for that rare instance of honest miscalculation when it results in no injury to others and is not part of a pattern of dangerous-to-others behavior.

    And everything to lose.


  29. Or, police could just stop killing people. I mean, if they actually wanted to save lives, that is.

  30. There are an estimated 26M traffic stops per year. Only a few end dramatically and tragically. While I agree that mechanical violations (likely a mere oversight by the motorist) can be dealt with via mail, the purpose behind enforcement stops is to promptly curb the dangerous behavior. Letting them proceed, to receive a citation in the mail, allows them to continue on. Further, many stops for speeding result in DUI arrests.

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