"Did the officer pulled me over because I'm a minority?" In some cases, it is a valid claim, as not all officers that swear the oath to serve and protect follow what reasonable and prudent people would consider ethical standards. Some people might be surprised to find out that according to Smith and Durose (2006) in 2002, "white drivers were more likely (by overall number) than both black and Hispanic drivers to be stopped by police for speeding." The percentages of those citizens pulled over among the three races was almost even across the board; whites (8.7%), blacks (9.1%), and Hispanics (8.6%). That is where the argument ends, as Hispanics were 15% more likely and blacks 8% more likely to receive a citation for speeding than whites.
"Did the officer pull me over because I am a younger driver?" Insurance companies claim that those under the age of 25 have higher insurance rates because they are more at risk. According to the state of California's DMV (2008), the national statistic for likelihood of being involved in a fatal or injury accident for all drivers is 16.8 per 1,000 people. The risk of being involved in the same type of accident for the age group of 16 to 19 is 47.7 per 1,000 people, almost 3 times the risk (http://dmv.ca.gov/teenweb/more_btn6/traffic/traffic.htm#). Although it is clear that they are more at risk, younger drivers (16-26) were only pulled over 4.2% more often than older drivers (27+) for speeding and were ticketed 74.8% of the time for speeding as opposed to 71.1% of older drivers ticketed for speeding, according to Smith and Durose (2006) in 2002. The numbers are very close, which indicates that younger drivers are not being targeted more than older drivers, despite the risk they impose on themselves and other drivers.
"Would I have gotten the ticket if I were a woman?" This may sound like a funny question, but there is validity to wondering if gender plays a role in whether or not you receive a ticket. According to http://www.policeemployment.com/resources/articles/women-law-enforcement, women only account for about 12% of law enforcement jobs, so your odds of engaging a male officer on the streets is much greater. Are the male officers more lenient towards female drivers? The statistics do not seem to support this theory. According to Smith and Durose (2006) in 2002, males (74.8%) stopped for speeding were more likely than females (69.3%) to be ticketed, but at only 5.5% difference, it could be said that other factors (such as mph above the speed limit) could play a role in why more men receive tickets than women.
It seems that race is still the big issue when it comes to issuing tickets, with age and gender being as statistically close as they are. As criminal justice majors, those who plan on entering the law enforcement field should do their part to ensure that discretionary decisions are kept ethical so that we are truly treated equal.
Smith, E. L., & Durose, M. R. U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs & Bureau of Justics Statistics. (2006). Characteristics of drivers stopped by police: 2002 (NCJ 211471). Retrieved from website: http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/pub/ascii/cdsp02.txt