The negative safety effects of speeding are well established. The enforcement of speed limits is justified to reduce crashes. But does officer discretion when giving tickets result in bias against one group or another? The results of an analysis of speeding stops in Burlington, VT, show that young drivers, male drivers, and drivers belonging to what the researchers termed a non-white “minority” group are more likely to receive a speeding ticket, rather than a warning.
Traffic stop data from the Burlington Police Department (BPD) was collected for a six-year period between 2012 and 2017. Of 33,874 traffic stops, 4,089 stops for speeding included data regarding age, race, gender, speeding range, and geographic coordinates. Some aggregation was done over age ranges (25 and under, between 25 and 65, and 65 and older), and with speeds (0-10, 11-20, and 21+ mph over the limit), and the researchers merged the 12 percent of speeding stops involving a non-white driver into a “minority” category. Eighty-eight percent of the drivers stopped were white. Twice as many male drivers were stopped for speeding than female drivers. Most drivers fell into the young or middle age categories. Most speeders were clocked going 0 to 20 mph over the limit.