Police Traffic Stop Reforms: Causing More Harm than Good?

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Some cities in the U.S. have limited traffic stops and prevented police officers from stopping cars for checks. Unfortunately, these reforms may have contributed to increased DUI (driving under the influence) fatalities in recent years. An analysis from Zutobi published that the U.S. recorded nearly 12,000 DUI fatalities in 2020, which was higher than in 2019.

For the first time since 2005, the rise in DUI deaths in the United States passed the 11,000 threshold. Zutobi co-founder Leo Waldenback explained how the country had seen a massive increase in drunk driving fatalities, particularly during the pandemic.

He suggested several factors could be behind this reason, including an increase in alcohol consumption due to the COVID-19 lockdown. He noted the large increase in the sales of alcoholic beverages and the increase in depression and loneliness.

According to Waldenback, depression is a major factor in the increase in drunk driving crashes and fatalities. He added that 2020 was not a fun year for anyone; therefore, perhaps people made the bottle their companion.

However, Louis Anemone, NYPD chief, begs to differ. Anemone opined that new police policies made matters worse. The reforms to police policies were making it extremely difficult for police officers to do their job of protecting the public.

The police are naturally expected to take a proactive approach toward stopping vehicles from violating traffic laws that could lead to fatalities. For instance, there should be at least ten traffic summons for every collision with DUIs and injuries. Because of these reforms, policymakers will need to drive down the number of accidents, which they cannot do now.

Philadelphia reportedly started the trend of the reforms, pulling back on traffic stops for seemingly insignificant violations. The city of Philadelphia opts not to conduct stops for minor violations such as minor bumper damage, expired vehicle registration, and others. The problem is that restricting these stops makes it hard for the police to catch offenders, including drivers under the influence.

According to Anemone, the police are expected to write tickets, which will require stopping a car. If jurisdictions choose to back off from car stops, then they should expect an increase in accidents and fatalities.

However, a spokesperson for Isaiah Thomas, Philadelphia Council Member, argued that many stakeholders supported the new rules. According to him, traffic stops promote discrimination and preserves the stops that facilitate and promote public safety.

Meanwhile, Joseph Sullivan, ex-Philadelphia Deputy Commissioner, maintained that reforming the policies was vital to police, stating that some went too far. According to Sullivan, the reforms contribute to the increase in automobile accidents, and it is the police’s responsibility to remove defaulting drivers and vehicles. He said that people are less likely to conform voluntarily to the auto code when police pull back on traffic stops.

Furthermore, Anemone said he understands the issues the reforms were trying to address but that they have gone too far. Moreover, they have tied the hands of the police down such that they cannot freely do their jobs. According to Sullivan, most cops are not engaging at the moment.

“As we continue to grapple with societal factors and police responsibility changes, we may see different DUI charge trends reported by different parties,” says Omeed Berenjian, an attorney at BK Law Group.

Looking ahead, it is uncertain how the aforementioned factors may play out to affect DUI charges. In the meantime, motorists should report any potentially dangerous activity on the roadways and speak with legal counsel when necessary to better understand their rights.

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