An analysis of traffic stops by police in Virginia between July 1, 2021, and March 31, 2022, has found that Black drivers were stopped at far higher rates than white drivers.
The Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services concluded in its report released Oct. 5 that while Blacks comprise 19.5% of the state’s driving-age population, 30.8% of the drivers stopped were Black.
Black drivers who were stopped were searched at higher rates than white drivers who were stopped. Also, 2.8% of stopped Black drivers were the subjects of a search, while 2.1% of white drivers were searched.
Virginia State Police, local police departments and sheriff’s offices are required to collect the racial traffic stop data under the Community Policing Act of 2020.
The report cautioned that the data do not provide specific reasons for the racial disparities in traffic stops, which it said may or may not be due to bias-based racial profiling. The report cited factors, including differences in locations where police focus patrol activities and lack of scientifically established baseline for determining the number of drivers in each racial/ethnic group on the road and subject to being stopped while driving.
Other past studies outside the state of Virginia have found that Black drivers are stopped more often than white drivers with less evidence of wrongdoing.
Hispanic drivers were also stopped at rates higher than white drivers, but to a far lesser extent than Black drivers. While Hispanic drivers comprise 8.9% of Virginia’s driving-age population, they were 9.5% of the total number of drivers stopped.
The study analyzed 567,181 traffic stops in the nine-month period and found that 97.6% of the stops were made for traffic or motor vehicle equipment violations.
White drivers are estimated to be 63.8% of the driving-age population, and they were 57% of all drivers stopped in the nine-month study period. Asian drivers comprising 7.5% of the driving-age population made up 2.4% of the traffic stops.