Sensible Traffic Ordinances for Public Safety (STOPS)

By ending non-safety-related traffic stops, we can make roads safer for everyone.

As the United States faces entwined crises of soaring roadway deaths and harmful racial disparities in traffic enforcement, STOPS helps lawmakers, local government leaders, and advocates address these problems by limiting stops for minor infractions that do not affect road or public safety. By shifting police traffic enforcement from making these stops to concentrating on dangerous driving, jurisdictions can promote road safety and overall public safety, while advancing racial justice and community trust in the police.

Nationally, police stop more than 20 million motorists a year for alleged traffic violations. As research by Vera and others has confirmed, a significant number of these are non-safety-related traffic stops: stops for minor infractions that do not affect road safety or public safety, such as driving with a single broken taillight, expired or defective vehicle registration, a missing inspection sticker, or excessive window tint. Although all drivers may face the indignity and potential danger of a police encounter, people of color are at greater risk for being stopped and searched. Non-safety-related traffic stops only exacerbate the problem, with more racial disparities than safety-related stops.

Eliminating non-safety-related stops allows police to improve road safety by prioritizing enforcement of driver behavior that actually threatens public safety, like speeding and impaired driving. Despite the often-stated reason for these stops, they very rarely result in the recovery of guns or other contraband. Instead, these stops increase the risk of physical, psychological, and economic harm, especially in Black communities. Additionally, these stops’ frequency and impact on communities of color compound distrust in government institutions such as police and prosecutors, which depend on the public’s cooperation to solve crimes.

Too many people have been harmed or killed because of unjust traffic enforcement and policing. Cities, counties, and states around the country are banning or limiting these non-safety-related stops by creating new legislative, police, or prosecutorial policy. With STOPS, Vera aims to create more momentum for this sensible, equitable sea change.

If you are interested in working with Vera to eliminate non-safety-related traffic stops in your jurisdiction, please reach out to the contact listed below.

STOPS Toolkit

Vera’s researchers and policy experts have produced a series of documents aimed at helping jurisdictions interested in eliminating non-safety-related stops. These documents offer information to support every step of this process, from drafting to passage to implementation. This toolkit includes the following documents:

Progress across the country and Vera's role

The first known policy to eliminate non-safety-related stops was implemented in Fayetteville, North Carolina, in 2013, under the direction of Police Chief Harold Medlock. Since Fayetteville’s successful experiment—which led to decreased racial disparities in traffic enforcement and fewer car crashes and traffic injuries/fatalities, with little impact on non-traffic crime—many cities, counties, and states have joined this movement for safer, fairer traffic enforcement.

In 2023, Vera hosted a learning cohort in which 10 jurisdictions from around the country participated in a series of sessions guiding them through the process of crafting and implementing their own version of this policy. Participants learned from Vera’s experts, as well as legislators, law enforcement, researchers, advocates, and others with experience ending these stops. The cohort included participants from two jurisdictions that successfully passed these policies in 2023: Ann Arbor, Michigan and Shaker Heights, Ohio. Vera has also supported leaders in several state and local governments outside of the cohort, including Memphis, Tennessee, which adopted one of these policies by ordinance in 2023.

Policies to limit or end non-safety-related stops generally fall into three categories, depending on who is responsible for instituting the policy: legislative, law enforcement, and prosecutorial. Vera has attempted to compile a list of all such policies (while acknowledging that not all policies are publicized and so this is sure to be an incomplete list). Note that some of these policies are not currently active, either because they are still under negotiation, no longer being enforced, or tied to an official who is no longer in office.

By Vera’s count as of August 2023, at least 12 state or local governments have passed policies to limit at least one category of non-safety related stop: California; Illinois; New York; Oregon; Virginia; Ann Arbor, Michigan; Chapel Hill, North Carolina; Memphis, Tennessee; Philadelphia; Pittsburgh; Shaker Heights, Ohio; and West Hollywood, California.

At least 19 jurisdictions have limited these stops by police order: Alliance, Nebraska*; Berkeley, California; Culver City, California*; Denver, Colorado; Duluth, Minnesota*; Fayetteville, North Carolina*; Hamden, Connecticut*; Lansing, Michigan; Los Angeles, California; Mecklenburg County, North Carolina; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Nashville, Tennessee; New Haven, Connecticut*; Newington, Connecticut*; Oakland, California*; Portland, Oregon*; Ramsey County, Minnesota (Maplewood, New Brighton, Roseville, Saint Anthony Village, and Saint Paul)*; San Francisco; and Seattle, Washington.

At least six jurisdictions have limited these stops by prosecutorial policy: Chittenden County, Vermont; Ingham County, Michigan; Ramsey County, Minnesota; San Francisco County, California; Suffolk County, Massachusetts; and Washtenaw County, Michigan.

If you are interested in working with Vera to eliminate non-safety-related traffic stops in your jurisdiction, please reach out to the contact listed below.

*Jurisdictions for which Vera has not been able to obtain a copy of the departmental policy. All other policies can be found above in the STOPS policy database as part of the STOPS toolkit.

Contact Us
Daniela Gilbert Director, Redefining Public Safety