Report: African-American Drivers Hit with Nearly 3X More Traffic Violations, Incur More Fines Than Whites in California

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Washington Monthly
Washington Monthly

In California, a Black driver has more costs for infractions like driving with a suspended license than white motorists.

Commonly referred to as driving while black, drivers in California have unfair disadvantages compared to white drivers. Back On the Road California reports Black drivers in the state are more likely to have their licenses suspended because they are unable to come to court or cannot afford to pay a parking ticket.

Fines and fees for traffic citations have steadily increased over the last decade, and that disproportionately affects Black drivers, especially those who live in poor communities. Violations of $100 now cost close to $500 and increase to $800 for drivers who miss court dates. Oakland, California is home to 27 percent of African-Americans and 26 percent of whites. Yet Oakland Police Department data from April 2013 to Oct. 2014 shows more than 15,000 traffic violations have been attributed to Black drivers while white residents only account for more than 4,000.

California court budget cuts have led the state to increasingly use license suspension fees to make up for citation debts. Suspensions were originally put in place to promote public safety, but they are now used to punish non-driving related behaviors like vandalism and juvenile crimes.

According to CNN Money, 47-year-old Reginald Cole, a Black man who lives in Los Angeles, was pulled over by police for a broken taillight in 2012. The truck driver said he couldn’t afford to fix the issue and a court judge told him to “fix it or the price of the ticket goes up,” Cole said to the website. “They don’t care.”

Cole was finally able to fix the light when his license had been suspended and his vehicle registration expired. Cole had to keep driving to care for his ill mother and see his children. He continued to get pulled over and owed $2,500 in tickets, fines and fees.

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