Driving certificate

Philadelphia City Council Approves Equal Driving Bill Banning Traffic Stops For Minor Violations

The Philadelphia City Council on Thursday approved “Driving Equality” bills prohibiting police from stopping drivers for minor traffic violations. The approval makes Philadelphia the first major city to tackle so-called “pretext stops,” which often affect black drivers at disproportionately higher rates.

The bills, which were approved by a 14-2 vote, reclassify motor vehicle code violations into “primary” and “secondary” violations.

In “primary” offences, the police are authorized to carry out traffic stops in the name of public safety. In “secondary” offences, traffic stops would no longer be used for law enforcement.

The following issues are considered secondary offenses in Equality Driving Bills:

  • Vehicle not registered within sixty days of the offense noted
  • License plate is not clearly displayed, attached or visible
  • Single brake light, headlight, position light, etc. unlit
  • Minor obstacles
  • Bumper issues
  • Driving a vehicle without an official inspection certificate
  • Illegal operation without proof of emissions inspection

City council members who sponsored the bill argue that the bills “end traffic stops that promote discrimination while retaining traffic stops that promote public safety.” The bills were touted as a way to resolve “tensions between police and community members by removing negative interactions.”

Following council approval, the bills were sent to Mayor Kenney for signing into law. Councilman Isaiah Thomas, who drafted the bill, recently amended the bill to give the Philadelphia Police Department 120 days for training and education before the laws are implemented.

The corresponding invoices require a public, searchable database of traffic stops that includes driver and agent information, the reason for the stop, as well as demographic and geographic information.

“Data and lived experience has shown us the problem and data will be key to making sure this is done right,” said Council Member Isaiah Thomas. “The data will tell us if we need to end more traffic stops or change how this is enforced. The data will also tell other cities that Philadelphia is leading on this civil rights issue and that can be reproduced.”



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