Traffic Justice: Achieving Effective and Equitable Traffic Enforcement in the Age of Vision Zero

By Conner, Marco | Fordham Urban Law Journal, August 2017 | Go to article overview

Traffic Justice: Achieving Effective and Equitable Traffic Enforcement in the Age of Vision Zero


Conner, Marco, Fordham Urban Law Journal


"No goal is more ambitious than zero [traffic fatalities], but at the same time no other goal is acceptable." (1)--New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Introduction                                                  970
I. The U.S. Pandemic of Traffic Violence                      973
II. Vision Zero: A New Approach to Address the Pandemic       975
     A. What Is Vision Zero?                                  976
     B. Equity in Vision Zero                                 979
III. Racial Disparities in Police Traffic Enforcement         980
     A. Understanding Police Traffic Enforcement              980
        1. Traffic Injury Responses                           980
        2. Traffic Safety Violations                          981
        3. Discretionary Traffic Stops                        982
IV. Deterrence and Dangerous Driving                          987
     A. Mothers Against Drunk Driving: Inspiration for
        Effective Enforcement                                 987
     B. Understanding Deterrence                              988
        1. Initial vs. Residual Deterrence and Specific vs.
           General Deterrence                                 989
        2. Perceptions of Likely Apprehension and Legal
           Consequences                                       989
        3. Legitimacy: Justice as Fairness                    991
V. Achieving Effective and Equitable Traffic Enforcement in
   the Age of Vision Zero                                     992
     A. Achieving Effective Traffic Enforcement: Deterrence
        Lessons Applied                                       993
     B. Automated Enforcement Technology                      995
     C. Achieving Constitutional and Just Traffic
        Enforcement: Lessons Applied                         1000
     D. Beyond Police Traffic Enforcement As We Know It      1002
Conclusion                                                   1004

INTRODUCTION

In 2016, more than 40,000 people lost their lives in traffic crashes in the United States, (2) marking the third consecutive year of increases in traffic fatalities. (3) Many view increased police traffic enforcement and more aggressive prosecution as part of the solution to this violent pandemic, (4) in part because driver actions--like speeding, texting, and driver inattention--contribute to an estimated ninety-four percent of those traffic crashes. (5) At the same time, a recent shift in public discourse has shined a light on decades of racially disparate policing and criminal justice practices. (6) Horrific high-profile killings of A Mean-Americans during police traffic stops reveal only the surface of our troubled race relations and a failed enforcement and criminal justice system in the United States, where Black (7) drivers are far more likely than White drivers to be stopped by police, (8) even though contraband is possessed less often by those Black drivers, (9) and where "African-Americans are far more likely than whites and other groups to be the victims of use of force by the police." (10)

In recent years, many cities have renewed their efforts to reduce traffic fatalities and serious injuries, some setting the bold goal of eliminating them altogether. (11) In New York City ("NYC") and elsewhere, this goal, named Vision Zero, has become government policy, for which police traffic enforcement is considered a vital component. (12) However, given the racial inequities in our criminal justice system, the disparate stops of Black drivers, and fatal outcomes of traffic stops, cities and transportation planners must ask whether they can defend promoting police traffic enforcement and increased prosecution to achieve their goals of preventing traffic deaths and injuries. Critically, they must ask whether such measures work, and whether there are more effective alternatives to current practices.

This Article examines the role of traffic enforcement, analyzes its efficacy to deter dangerous driving, and suggests a new framework for traffic enforcement suited to the goals of Vision Zero. …

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