Long before the racial reckoning of 2020, discrimination in police traffic enforcement has been apparent, from the beating of Rodney King in 1991 to the death in police custody of Sandra Bland in 2015.

Time and again, research demonstrates that traffic stops result in negative outcomes for Black and brown drivers. And as police enforcement increases, so have serious crashes and traffic fatalities. While many continue to argue that police enforcement and prosecution of traffic violations are necessary for public safety, a growing body of research shows otherwise—and suggests they may even make our communities less safe by overwhelming the criminal legal system, contributing to racial disparities in exposure to policing and prosecution, and eroding public trust.

Harvard’s Rappaport Institute for Greater Boston, the Harvard Kennedy School’s Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management, and LivableStreets Alliance hosted a virtual panel discussion on April 13 hosted by the GBH Forum Network. Expert panelists discussed their new research on the role of policing and prosecution in traffic enforcement and answered audience questions.



Rethinking Street Safety