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Illinois Study Suggests Racial Bias Exists in Traffic Stops

 Posted on July 25, 2017 in Criminal Law

Illinois Study Suggests Racial Bias Exists in Traffic StopsThe Illinois Department of Transportation is required to compile an annual study of traffic stops in order to identify whether there is racial bias in who gets stopped. Cooperating police departments throughout the state submit their traffic stop data from the previous year, including:

  • The total number of stops;
  • The reasons for stops;
  • The duration of stops; and
  • The outcomes of stops.

The drivers involved are sorted into one of six racial categories: White, African American, American Indian, Hispanic, Asian and Native Hawaiian. Researchers use the data to determine whether drivers of certain races are more likely to be stopped, issued a citation or subjected to a vehicle search. IDOT released its study of the 2016 traffic stop statistics in early July. According to the data:

  1. The total traffic stops increased by seven percent from the previous year. There were 2,022,332 stops in 2015 and 2,169,796 stops in 2016. The number of stops has been between 2 million and 2.2 million since 2013. Nine more police departments participated in the 2016 study than in 2015, which may account for some of the increase.
  2. Minority drivers are 38 percent more likely to be stopped than white drivers, which is up from 25 percent last year. White drivers made up 61 percent of the total drivers stopped in 2016, followed by African Americans at 22 percent and Hispanics at 14 percent. However, the study measures the likelihood of being stopped based on the ratio between the percentage of stops that involved minorities and what percentage of the total drivers are minorities.
  3. Traffic stops in 2016 lasted for an average of 11 minutes. African Americans and Hispanics were slightly above the average at 12 minutes. Asian and Native Hawaiian drivers averaged 10 minutes per stop.
  4. Half of Hispanic drivers who were stopped received a citation. Forty one percent of all stops resulted in a citation, which is down from 46 percent last year. Whites and African Americans were least likely to be cited, both being at 40 percent.
  5. Police were more likely to search vehicles of African American and Hispanic drivers but more likely to find contraband in the vehicles of white drivers. About one percent of all traffic stops resulted in a vehicle search. Police conducted searches in slightly more than one percent of traffic stops involving African American and Hispanic drivers, and slightly less than one percent of white drivers. Police found contraband 30 percent of the time when searching vehicles of white drivers, and 24 percent of the time with minorities.


Racial bias is a possible explanation for the discrepancies in the traffic stop statistics for white and minority drivers. Discovering bias is important because traffic stops can result in fines, loss of driving privileges and criminal charges. A DuPage County criminal defense lawyer with Stephen A. Brundage, Attorney at Law, can protect you from false traffic charges. Schedule an appointment by calling 630-260-9647.


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