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What impact has Achieving Driving Equality law made in Philly?

Achieving Driving Equality Law decreases traffic stops
Achieving Driving Equality Law decreases traffic stops 04:09

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- As a kid growing up in Germantown, Andre Carroll spent hours after school at the Police Athletic League Community Center.

"The first person to help me with my homework, outside of my grandmother, was a police officer," Carroll said. "So, I didn't grow up with a negative perception of police."

But at 32 years old, that perception has changed because of Tyre Nichols and other high-profile cases of police brutality against Black people.

"We know that this is the reality," Carroll said.

Carroll says he's been pulled over several times for minor traffic violations in Philadelphia.

None of those incidents resulted in violence from the police, but at each stop, he said he felt intimidated, embarrassed and afraid.

"When you get pulled over, you get a little nervous," Carroll said. "I don't know how this will go. They can decide my fate at any moment."

Councilman Isaiah Thomas says he's also been frequently stopped for minor violations and has felt the same feelings as Carroll.

In fact, seven out of 10 drivers pulled over for traffic stops in Philly are Black and Latino, and that's why Thomas introduced the Achieving Driving Equality law.


"Men of color are disproportionately pulled over," Thomas said, "and unfortunately, we've seen that sometimes these things can end with a tragedy."

Under the law, police are no longer allowed to pull over drivers for minor violations like:

  • Not having an inspection sticker
  • Having a broken headlight or brake light
  • Something hanging from a rear-view mirror

It's been almost a year now.

Enforcement of the law began last March, and CBS Philadelphia wanted to find out if it's having an impact.

Data from the Philadelphia Police Department show that traffic stops have declined since the law went into effect in March 2022.

From March 3, 2022, to Jan. 14, 2023, there were 69,690 stops.

For the same time period in the previous year, there were a little more than 78,000.


That's over a 10% decrease.

"We are excited about the early data," Thomas said, "and some of the progress that we're seeing across the city."

But some say the data raises more questions and reveals bigger problems.

Michael Mellon is a lawyer with the Defender Association, a group that provides free legal assistance to criminal defendants.

"I think you need something as far as changing the culture of policing and understanding what your job is and not just about targeting Black men," Mellon said. "Because I don't know how if you're making motor vehicle stops and you're primarily stopping Black men when they're clearly not the only people driving in this city, something is going on there, no matter what we try to do with driver equality."

Philadelphia's police union declined to comment.

But the union is suing the city over the law, claiming it's invalid because it's preempted by state motor vehicle code and it "adversely affects the public safety of Philadelphians."

In an interview with CBS Philadelphia last February, John McNesby, the president of the Fraternal Order of Police, defended the need for even minor traffic stops.

"I don't want to hear the Black, White issue. That's nonsense," McNesby said. "This is going to hurt the Black community. It's going to hurt the White community. It's going to hurt the Asian community. It's going to hurt the whole city."

Meanwhile, proposals for similar laws have been introduced in Virginia, Minnesota and California.

For Carroll, the new law gives him hope.

"I just feel a little more relieved that I shouldn't, by law, have to deal with a police interaction because of a headlight," Carroll said.

A council oversight committee will analyze the first-year data on traffic stops since the law was enforced, specifically taking a look at how often police find weapons or drugs in the cars they stop.

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