BJS: Bureau of Justice Statistics

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Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS)
Traffic Stops
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The most common reason for contact with the police is being a driver in a traffic stop. In 2011, an estimated 42% of face-to-face contacts that U.S. residents had with police occurred for this reason. About half of all traffic stops that year resulted in a traffic ticket. Approximately 3% of all stopped drivers were searched by police during a traffic stop.

These findings are based on the Police-Public Contact Survey (PPCS), a BJS survey that interviews U.S. residents about their contacts with police during the previous 12 months. Persons who reported more than one instance of face-to-face contact during the year are asked to describe the most recent occurrence. The PPCS has been conducted about every three years since 1996.

Summary findings

  • An estimated 26.4 million persons age 16 or older indicated that their most recent contact with the police in 2011 was as a driver pulled over in a traffic stop. These drivers represented 12% of the nation's 212 million drivers.
  • A greater percentage of male drivers (12%) than female drivers (8%) were stopped by police during 2011. A higher percentage of black drivers (13%) than white (10%) and Hispanic (10%) drivers were stopped by police during 2011.
  • Stopped drivers reported speeding as the most common reason for being pulled over in 2011.
  • Approximately 80% of drivers pulled over by police in 2011 felt they had been stopped for a legitimate reason. In 2011, about 68% of black drivers believed police had a legitimate reason for stopping them compared to 84% of white and 74% of Hispanic drivers.
  • In 2011, about 3% of traffic stops led to a search of the driver, the vehicle, or both. Police were more likely to search male drivers (4%) than female drivers (2%).
  • A lower percentage of white drivers stopped by police in 2011 were searched (2%) than black (6%) or Hispanic (7%) drivers.

Data Collections & Surveys

Publications & Products


Requests for Police Assistance, 2011 Examines the characteristics and experiences of persons age 16 or older who contacted police to request assistance in 2011.
  Press Release | PDF (952K) | ASCII file (23K) | Comma-delimited format (CSV) (Zip format 33K)

Police Behavior during Traffic and Street Stops, 2011 Examines the characteristics and experiences of persons age 16 or older who were stopped by police during traffic and street stops, and their perceptions of police behavior and response during these encounters.
  Press Release | PDF (1.8M) | ASCII file (52K) | Comma-delimited format (CSV) (Zip format 64K)

Requests for Police Assistance, 2011 STUDY FINDS SOME RACIAL DIFFERENCES IN PERCEPTIONS OF POLICE BEHAVIOR DURING CONTACT WITH THE PUBLIC
  PDF

Contacts between Police and the Public, 2008 Presents findings from a nationally representative survey of nearly 60,000 residents age 16 or older about their contact with police during the 12 months prior to the interview.
  Press Release | PDF (932K) | ASCII file (48K) | Spreadsheet (Zip format 51K) | Codebooks and Datasets
Part of the Contacts between Police and the Public Series

Contacts between Police and the Public, 2008 CONTACTS BETWEEN POLICE AND THE PUBLIC DECLINED FROM 2002 TO 2008
  Press Release
Part of the Contacts between Police and the Public Series

Average base starting salary for entry-level officers in local police departments, 2000 and 2003 Figure 7 from Local Police Departments, 2003
  Download CSV file (Data Table 1 KB)

Local Police Departments, 2003 Full-time employment by local police departments, 1987-2003 Local Police Departments, 2003 Full-time employment by local police departments, 1987-2003
  Spreadsheet (1K)

Contacts between Police and the Public, 2005 "Police stop white, black and Hispanic drivers at similar rates according to Department of Justice report"
  Press Release | More information about this release

Contacts between Police and the Public, 2005 Presents data over a 12-month period on the nature and characteristics of face-to-face contacts between residents of the U.S. and the police. The report also provides demographic and other characteristics of residents involved in traffic stops and use of force incidents.
  Press Release | PDF (305K) | ASCII file (32K) | Spreadsheet (Zip format 21K)
Part of the Contacts between Police and the Public Series

Citizen Complaints about Police Use of Force "Citizens complained more than 26,000 times in 2002 about excessive police force - Evidence in about 8% of complaints justified disciplinary action"
  Press Release | More information about this release