Survey: White men get out of traffic tickets most often. Black women, not so much.

January 23, 2017

In the U.S., racial tensions have been on the rise the past several years--particularly tensions between African American communities and police officers. The tensions have been fueled by shocking videos of alleged police brutality against black suspects and equally shocking reports of police officers being ambushed and gunned down in the line of duty. 

How does this growing unease affect the average driver when he or she gets pulled over for a traffic violation? A new survey suggests there are some significant disparities along race and gender lines, though there's a lot more research that need to be done on the topic.

The survey was carried out by the folks at, an online auto insurance site. The site doesn't describe its survey methodology in detail, and so far as we know, the people who conducted it weren't scientists. However, the results are in keeping with other data we've seen, which show that racial profiling remains a problem in America and that the public's relationship with police forces is in desperate need of improvement.


When survey respondents were asked how often they've been able to talk their way out of traffic tickets, 34.13 percent of African Americans said that they've never been successful at doing so. Meanwhile, a very fortunate 19.91 percent of Caucasian drivers say that they always get out of tickets--a higher percentage than any other group. 

How have those lucky so-and-sos gotten out of those tickets? Most of them--89.12 percent--have simply told the truth. Significant numbers also showed remorse (77.62 percent) and/or flirted with the officer (72.22 percent). A very impressive 60.71 percent proved themselves to be great actors and said that they'd cried on purpose.

Overall, men were better at getting out of tickets than women. However, that may be because men have gotten more practice, because they get pulled over more frequently. Among respondents, men said that they'd been pulled over 3.88 times in their lives, while women said 3.38 times.

When broken down by race, African American drivers had been pulled over more than any other group (3.87 times), while Asian Americans had been stopped the least (2.52 times).

When asked whether they felt guilty after being stopped, there were some notable differences between racial groups. White drivers were the most likely to feel guilty (26.93 percent), while Hispanic drivers were least likely to feel that way (12.03 percent). 

Meanwhile, African American drivers were most likely to say that they never felt guilty at traffic stops (6.13 percent), while Hispanic drivers were the least likely to say so (2.87 percent).

Our take

As we said, this poll wasn't scientific, so we don't want to rely on the precise numbers it turned up. However, it does reaffirm data that we've seen elsewhere--data that suggests that frustrations between police officers and the communities they serve have only been exacerbated in recent years. Given some of the rhetoric we saw during the recent presidential election, it's unlikely that any of those frustrations will abate anytime soon without a lot of conscientious work on the part of community leaders and law enforcement.

Like more scientific surveys, this one doesn't put forward hypotheses about why certain groups or genders responded to particular questions in particular ways. For example, what role does geography play in the survey? It found that drivers in the South were more likely to get pulled over than those in other parts of the country, but was that a simple coincidence, or was it due to the fact that African Americans make up a greater proportion of the Southern population?

Also, we'd be curious to know how these sentiments have changed over time. Were African Americans more likely to get out of traffic tickets before racial tensions began to ramp up, around the time of Michael Brown's death in Ferguson, Missouri? If so, why?

These are tough questions with a lot of variables, and the answers are just as complicated. But if we don't start the process of resolving the situation, it won't improve.

Share your own experiences of being pulled over for traffic violations in the comments below. You can read the results of the survey yourself here.

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