Research: Traffic Stops Don't Stop Traffic Deaths

A comprehensive study using data from 33 states shows no significant correlation between police stops and reduced crash rates.

July 22, 2021, 7:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Leonard Zhukovsky / Shutterstock

Kea Wilson reports on an "explosive new study" that debunks the idea that more frequent traffic stops lead to fewer car crashes. An analysis of over 150 million traffic stops in 33 states "showed that, in the aggregate, there was no significant correlation between high rates of police stops per mile and a low crash rate per mile, or between a high crash rate and a low policing rate." 

"Too often, people defend current police traffic practices based on supposed ‘evidence’ of effectiveness, but these are often small-scale analyses that do not show lasting effect of improved traffic safety," said Leah Shahum, founder and director of the Vision Zero Network. "This new study exposes those shortcomings and looks at national-scale data to determine that state traffic-patrol stops are not effective in improving traffic safety."

Because "Black drivers are 63 percent more likely to be stopped in traffic than white drivers, even though they drive 16 percent less" and are "also three times more likely to be killed in such an encounter," advocates say "we must invest in other proven strategies that don’t potentially endanger people of color" to curb traffic deaths. The study's authors conclude that "directing scarce resources to effective strategies such as rural and urban infrastructural changes, motor-vehicle modifications with advanced lifesaving technology, community-based safety initiatives, improved access to health care, or prioritizing trauma system and improved trauma care is imperative."

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