- As cars, drivers and the rules of the road change, law enforcement strategies must also adapt.
- In Ann Arbor, Michigan, the city council will vote next month to change rules surrounding the reasons police officers can use to pull someone over to reduce racial profiling.
- In Washington, DC, the city will send text and mail messages to high-risk drivers, warning them that “Someone in your home is driving dangerously.”
American roads are changing. Whether it’s the challenging public debate about the best way for police officers to conduct traffic stops or the rise in traffic deaths during an epidemic, things are different out there. That’s why, from Michigan to New York, strategies to make the roads safer for everyone are also changing.
In Michigan, the Ann Arbor City Council voted 9–0 earlier this month to propose a new law that would reduce the ability of police officers to pull someone over for “minor offenses.” The proposed Driving Equality Ordinance draws the line between routine traffic stops and eventual incarceration for Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC). The council’s proposed solution is to take away the officer’s right to pull someone over for a minor offense such as a cracked windshield.
The stakes for this pretextual stop can also be higher than being locked up. “The harm of traffic stops is not equally felt,” the proposal said. “More than a quarter of people killed in traffic stops are black, even though blacks make up only 12 percent of the population.” The proposal also states that stops for minor offenses “disproportionately affect people of color and return negligible public safety benefits.”
“When you get pulled over, you have to wonder if I did something wrong or if I was profiled,” Ann Arbor Independent Police Oversight Commission founding chairwoman Lisa Jackson told local ABC 7 News.
A final vote on the proposed law is scheduled for early July. Larger cities, including Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, have passed similar laws in recent years, as reported by Bloomberg.
Texts Not Welcome from the City
In Washington, DC, the city’s Department of Transportation has a different idea to reduce the number of traffic deaths, accidents and other traffic violations. In partnership with The Lab @ DC (part of city government), the city will send text messages and physical mail to drivers who have experienced citations or traffic violations. The customized message aims to make the driver think about their actions and will refer to details about the driver’s vehicle, violations that have been connected in the past and warnings that the vehicle is at a higher risk of an accident than others because of this history.
According to Washington Postone of the mailers included the text: “Someone in your home is driving dangerously. Your vehicle has a history of speeding and/or running red lights and this puts the driver and passengers of your vehicle at high risk of getting into an accident.”
The city created a list of 100,000 high-risk drivers, and a subset of these people would get text messages or mail (or both). Drivers can opt out of messages after the first message. During the 12-month program, DOT and The Lab will then look at which categories of drivers, if any, saw any significant improvement.
“The goal is to create awareness, regardless of whether anyone has opted out of certain alerts,” The Lab director Sam Quinney told Postal.
Sebastian Blanco has been writing about electric vehicles, hybrids and hydrogen cars since 2006. His articles and car reviews have appeared in New York Times, Automotive News, Reuters, SAE, Autoblog, InsideEVs, Trucks.com, Car Talk and other outlets. His first green car media event was the launch of the Tesla Roadster, and since then he has been tracking the transition away from gasoline-powered vehicles and discovering the importance of the new technology not just for the auto industry, but for the world as a whole. . Throw in the recent shift to autonomous vehicles, and there are more exciting changes happening right now than most people can wrap their heads around. You can find him on Twitter or, on good days, behind the wheel of a new EV.