Enforcement is a critical component of a comprehensive behavioral traffic safety program. In order for enforcement to be effective in improving traffic safety, it must be fair and equitable. Studies have documented that racial profiling and biased policing are significant problems affecting Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) populations. For example, one study of more than 100 million traffic stops in the United States showed that Black drivers were stopped 40% more frequently than White drivers (Pierson et al., 2020). A study using North Carolina data from 2010 showed Black drivers were 63% more likely to be stopped than White drivers, and the search rate for Black drivers was 116% higher than that for White drivers (Baumgartner, Epp, and Shoub, 2018). An examination of bicycle enforcement data in Chicago found tickets were issued 8 times more often per capita in majority Black census tracts and 3 times more often in majority Latino tracts compared to majority white tracts (Barajas, 2021). Furthermore, a recent analysis of traffic fatalities by race and ethnicity found disproportionately high rates of fatal motor vehicle crash deaths for BIPOC populations (Retting et al., 2021).
In September 2020, the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) released a statement offering recommendations to address racism in traffic enforcement. GHSA called for more “initiatives to collect and report standardized data about race in traffic enforcement,” more research to analyze these data, and “development of frameworks to require law enforcement grant subrecipients to be taking proactive steps to root out bias in traffic stops” (GHSA, 2020). GHSA also called for efforts to invest in social and criminal justice programs and mental health programs. Furthermore, GHSA called for developing rigorous evaluations “of effective public safety programs or technologies that can supplement existing and necessary traffic enforcement efforts conducted by sworn law enforcement officers.”
As communities wrestle with the role of enforcement in their injury prevention efforts, there is a need for research to comprehensively document and describe the effects of pedestrian, bicycle, and micromobility enforcement programs on the safety, mobility, health, and well-being of Black, Indigenous, and other communities of color. There is also a need to better understand practices to mitigate inequities and provide alternative or supplemental approaches to policing that could foster restorative justice and better meet underlying traffic safety, health, and mobility goals. National-level research and guidance could support NHTSA, GHSA, and state highway safety offices (SHSO) as they review and modify their guidance, activities, and programs to move toward more just policing practices.
The objectives of this research are to:
Assess the nature and magnitude of racial disparities in traffic safety-related policing with respect to pedestrians, bicyclists, and micromobility users; reasons for the disparities; the intended goals of conducting such enforcement; and the impact of disparities on Black, Indigenous, and other communities of color. These assessments will be drawn from a variety of publicly available data including but not limited to police reports (where available), published literature, qualitative and quantitative studies, or other sources such as original research.
Describe steps communities are taking to consider and address the effects of biased enforcement within the context of pedestrian, bicycle, and micromobility user related traffic laws, including alternatives to police enforcement. These steps could include community-led programs, technology-based systems, organizational or policy changes, changes to traffic-related laws (e.g., efforts to decriminalize jaywalking), training and education of police officers, or other interventions.
Develop and apply a framework to evaluate the impacts and equity outcomes of these approaches and establish recommendations for mitigating inequities in enforcing traffic-related laws with respect to pedestrians, bicyclists, and micromobility users. The recommendations should also speak to the necessary (needed) data sources (qualitative and quantitative) and methods to evaluate alternatives.
The BTSCRP is seeking the insights of proposers on how best to achieve the research objectives. Proposers are expected to describe research plans that can realistically be accomplished within the constraints of available funds and contract time. Proposals must present the proposers' current thinking in sufficient detail to demonstrate their understanding of the issues and the soundness of their approach to meeting the research objectives. New and innovative approaches are encouraged.
The research plan should delineate the tasks required to develop guidance necessary to accomplish the research objectives. At a minimum, the tasks shall include the following:
1. Review and synthesize literature related to racial disparities in the enforcement of pedestrian, bicycle, and micromobility traffic-related laws, and efforts to mitigate such disparities.
2. Develop a detailed data collection and analysis plan to:
a. Assess the nature and magnitude of racial disparities in policing with respect to pedestrians, bicyclists, and micromobility users. While traffic laws are the principal focus of this project, proposers can suggest other types of enforcement actions directed at non-motorists, such as stop-and-frisk programs.
b. Identify reasons for the disparities and goals of conducting such enforcement actions.
c. Assess the impact of disparities on Black, Indigenous, and other communities of color. These disparities may include, but not be limited to: short-term and generational impacts related to legal/court/sentencing, economic outcomes, escalation to violence, individual and community trauma and psychological effects, perceptions of safety, and changes to travel behaviors.
d. Collect information on steps communities are taking, and could take, to consider and address the effects of biased enforcement of pedestrian, bicycle, and micromobility user-related traffic laws.
The plan can draw from various publicly available data such as police reports (where available), published literature, qualitative and quantitative studies, or original research.
The plan should identify jurisdictions where data will be collected and show how the selection of jurisdictions will allow the understanding of factors that may correlate with more significant disparities. The plan should show how it will address disparities by specific racial groups and intersectionality, including, for example, between race and gender identity, disability, homelessness, and other demographic factors.
The plan should also collect data from a sample of jurisdictions, such as a survey, to assess their identification of racial disparities in the enforcement of traffic-related laws; data availability; and any plans to address mobility equity. This effort aims to develop a better sense of the issue overall and nationally. For example, what share of jurisdictions collect and report data that allow for analysis of racial disparities?
3. Collect and analyze data.
4. Develop and apply a framework to evaluate the impacts and equity outcomes of steps communities are taking to consider and address the effects of biased enforcement of pedestrian, bicycle, and micromobility user-related related traffic laws.
5. Propose recommendations to state and local governments to help mitigate inequities in the enforcement of traffic-related laws with respect to pedestrians, bicyclists, and micromobility users.
6. Propose recommendations to state and local governments to improve the collection of race-related information collected by police for enforcement of pedestrian, bicycle, and micromobility user-related traffic laws, as well as outcomes.
The proposed work plan must be divided into two phases as determined by the proposer. Each phase must be organized by task, with each task described in detail. A kick-off teleconference of the research team and BTSCRP shall be scheduled within 1 month of the contract’s execution.
Phase I will consist of information gathering and refinement of the research plan for subsequent phases, culminating in the submission of an interim report describing the work completed in Phase I. A meeting will be held with BTSCRP to discuss the interim report and review the Phase II work plan. BTSCRP approval of the Phase I interim report is required before work can commence on subsequent phases. The project schedule shall include 1 month for BTSCRP review and approval of the interim report.
Phase II shall consist of the BTSCRP-approved Phase II work plan and the development of the final deliverables.
At a minimum, the final deliverables shall include:
- An interim report based on the literature review and synthesis.
- A self-assessment tool for jurisdictions to evaluate racial disparities in their enforcement of pedestrian, bicycle, and micromobility traffic-related laws, as well as steps they could take to mitigate inequities.
- Best practices/guidelines for reporting and collecting race-related information collected by police for enforcement of pedestrian, bicycle, and micromobility user traffic laws, as well as outcomes. Proposers are encouraged to include case studies to help jurisdictions learn from noteworthy practices.
- A final report documenting the entire project and incorporating all other specified deliverable products of the research.
- An electronic presentation (with presenter notes) summarizing key findings and recommendations that can be tailored for specific audiences.
- A technical memorandum describing the strengths and limitations of the research and recommendations for additional research.
- A stand-alone technical memorandum titled “Implementation of Research Findings and Products”.
STATUS: Research underway.