Not Reaching! Facts & Statistics

The first thing an officer is looking out for is his or her safety. A driver should turn off the car, roll down the window, stay inside the car and put their hands on the steering wheel, or at least make it clear that there's nothing in their hands and they aren't reaching for anything. "The officer doesn't know who you are." -- Cedric Alexander, CNN Law Enforcement Analyst and the Public Safety Director of DeKalb County, Georgia (July 23, 2015)


Police killed 89 people during routine traffic stops in 2017, according to Mapping Police Violence, an activist research group that collected the data from news and police reports.

Amy Shoemaker, a data scientist with the Stanford Open Policing Project based in California says there’s no question that black drivers are racially profiled.  She explains a color-blind study showing that African-American drivers are just as likely to be pulled over as any other race or ethnicity during the night. In fact, during the night, African-American drivers are stopped 5 percent less. However, during the day when the race of the driver is visible, African-American drivers were more likely to be pulled over than other motorists.

“A simple answer to a complex question is for all parties involved, officer, vehicle operator, passenger or pedestrian should not do any quick unexpected movements of any kind.” -- North Augusta Department of Public Safety Lt. Tim Thornton (July 8, 2016).

The most common reason for contact with the police is being a driver in a traffic stop. In 2011, an estimated 42% of face-to-face contacts that U.S. residents had with police occurred for this reason. About half of all traffic stops that year resulted in a traffic ticket. Approximately 3% of all stopped drivers were searched by police during a traffic stop. – Bureau of Justice Statistics (2011)

Relatively more black drivers (13%) than white (10%) and Hispanic (10%) drivers were pulled over in a traffic stop during their most recent contact with police. There were no statistical differences in the race or Hispanic origin of persons involved in street stops. – Bureau of Justice Statistics (2011).

The Metropolitan Police Department’s 2013 Annual Report says more than 4,600 people were arrested that year for traffic violations, down from about 5,600 the previous year. AAA says state troopers in Maryland and Virginia issued more than 1.2 million traffic citations and summons during 2013 traffic stops.
In the aftermath of recent violent confrontations during police traffic stops, AAA is offering guidelines on what to do and what not to do during a traffic stop:

  • Keep hands in plain view of the officer. Avoid reaching or making sudden movements. Never reach under your seat.

  • Always carry proper identification: a valid driver’s license, proof of vehicle registration and current proof of insurance. Do not retrieve or reach for documentation until instructed. – WTOP Staff (August 5, 2015)