Philadelphia is banning police from pulling drivers over for minor traffic violations

Philadelphia Police
Philadelphia Police
(Image credit: DOMINICK REUTER/AFP via Getty Images)

Philadelphia is poised to become the first major U.S. city to ban police from stopping drivers for low-level traffic violations when Mayor Jim Kenney (D) signs the Driving Equality Bill into law this week, CNN reports. Passed 14-2 by the city council earlier this month, the bill categorizes offenses that don't have high safety concerns, like broken lights or license plate issues, as "secondary violations" that are inadequate grounds for a traffic stop; violators will receive a warning or citation by mail instead. Officers can still pull over people for "primary violations" that threaten public safety.

The bill aims to put an end to racially-motivated traffic stops since stops for minor infractions disproportionately affect Black drivers. According to data from the Defender Association of Philadelphia, as of this year Black drivers, who make up 48 percent of Philadelphia's population, have accounted for 67 percent of traffic stops by police officers compared to just 12 percent of white drivers. "To many people who look like me, a traffic stop is a rite of passage — we pick out cars, we determine routes, we plan our social interactions around the fact that it is likely that we will be pulled over by police," said Councilmember Isaiah Thomas, who introduced the bill.

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Jeva Lange

Jeva Lange was the executive editor at She formerly served as The Week's deputy editor and culture critic. She is also a contributor to Screen Slate, and her writing has appeared in The New York Daily News, The Awl, Vice, and Gothamist, among other publications. Jeva lives in New York City. Follow her on Twitter.