How To Not Get Pulled Over For A Traffic Ticket: Race And Sex Matter!

Never get a traffic ticket, rolls royceWhen I got my speeding ticket for going 35 mph in a 25 mph zone, all my friends laughed and jibed.

Are you sure Moose can even go 35 mph in two blocks?” (Moose was a slow, 14 year old Land Rover Discovery)

How the hell can you speed during rush hour traffic at 6:45pm? It's bumper to bumper then!” (SF traffic is horrendous thanks to robust employment compared to five years ago)

Dude, you're a victim of racial profiling. Out of all the cars out there, they chose your piece of shit? Don't they have something better to do?

I laughed at all three responses, but then I was asked again, “What color were the police officers?

They were both White,” I responded.

Ah hah! Proof right there. You were targeted!” responded my Hispanic friend.

Come on, that's just a coincidence,” I replied, even though I was miffed at getting pulled over when everybody was going the same speed during rush hour.

Never forget Rodney King, Don Sterling, Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner and the town of Ferguson!” shouted my friend with one fist raised up high!


Although I've encountered plenty of racism growing up overseas and in the South (Virginia for high school and college), I haven't experienced much racism as an adult. Sure, there might have been some slights here and there, but not bad enough that I can remember any of them now. If you're racist in the work place, you'll probably get reported, reprimanded, or fired. Hence, people just keep their true thoughts to themselves like Don Sterling until he was exposed. And it doesn't make sense to be racist in San Francisco because minorities are the majority.

I had one main objective for deciding to go to court to fight my ticket: to understand the system and report back to help other readers figure out what to do. I've never gone to court for a traffic ticket, so I figured I might as well learn. Financial Samurai is all about providing helpful information based off real experience.

My traffic ticket was in the amount of $238, which is on the cheaper side of the spectrum. Plenty of traffic tickets can cost $400 – $800 nowadays based on the degree of the violation. I'm not sure how many people can easily afford such a fine. So I figured if I could infiltrate the beast to report back my findings, that could help a lot of people save.

What I noticed as I sat in Courtroom A at 850 Bryant St., San Francisco, turned out to be very interesting.

Here are some observations of the courtroom:

* Roughly 38 defendants. There were roughly 30-40 defendants standing outside in the hallway waiting for Courtroom B with very similar demographics to the defendants in my courtroom.

* 19 Hispanics. 14 were cited for driving without a license. The defendants were pulled over for some moving violation first and then it was discovered they didn't have valid drivers licenses.

* 16 Asians. Two were cited for tail gaiting. Five did not have a valid drivers license. A few didn't come to a complete stop at a stop sign.

* 2 Black guys. One was cited for blasting his music too loud and received a $900 ticket, which was reduced by $720 because the judge found the charge to be ridiculous. But he was also charged with not having a valid license.

* 1 White guy. A public school teacher who plead no contest to not stopping at a stop sign for half off the ticket cost for $131 + the ability to go to traffic school for no point on record for $52. Was the most contrite out of everyone. “Sorry your honor! Please forgive me! Money is tight and I will accept the plea,” he blurted out.

* 4 women out of roughly 38 defendants.

* Judge was a 50-something year old White man with a beard and glasses.

* Police clerk was a White man in his late 30s

* Both female secretaries to the judge were Black women in their 40s.

The things that stood out to me are:

1) An incredible number of the defendants didn't drive with a valid license (over 50%). They therefore didn't have valid car insurance either. If you get in an accident that's not your fault, chances seem high that you're screwed if you don't have comprehensive insurance. The guy with no insurance and no license who t-bones you probably doesn't have the money to pay for your damages out of pocket. Your insurance company can go after the other driver, but they'll probably turn up empty handed.

2) Men seem like more reckless drivers than women by a magnitude of 8:1. Or maybe police officers don't target women as much? The male defendants were cited for blaring their music too loud, speeding, taking illegal left turns, and not stopping at a stop sign. One of the women got caught stuck in an HOV lane when merging. Another woman got caught touching her mobile device to initiate her Bluetooth. And another woman was cited for tail-gaiting. I can't remember what the other one was cited for because it was all in Cantonese and I wasn't paying attention to the translation. A reader makes a good point that perhaps women tend to pay the ticket and not bother going to court, which is why there were so many less women in court.

3) There was only one White guy in the entire courtroom (2% of defendants). If the defendants represented the San Francisco population, then there should have been around 14 White defendants (40%). So either there's racial profiling going on, or minorities are just much worse drivers, or White violators have a higher propensity to pay their ticket and not defend themselves. We all know that people tend to take better care of people who look and talk the same way as them. Look around the office. It's no coincidence senior management are all from similar schools. It's no coincidence there are more of one minority or sex than another. So maybe, just maybe, a police officer can't help but be kinder to his/her own race, and more discriminating against another race. The counter argument is that there must be a correlation between bad driving due to inexperience. People without valid drivers licenses might be less experienced drivers. There were a lot of first generation Hispanics and Asians.


When was the last time grandma got pulled over for a traffic ticket? Never. Therefore, the best way to never get pulled over by a police officer is by driving slow and very carefully. But sometimes, driving conditions change. Maybe you need to gun it when you are passing a car because you timed your pass wrong. Maybe you stayed in the merged lane too long and it turned into a HOV lane before you realized it. Or maybe you're just being profiled. You never know.

Based on my afternoon in court, the strategy for reducing your chances of getting pulled over for a traffic ticket are as follows: 

Try to look like a woman or make your wife, girlfriend, or female friend drive if there's a choice. With women accounting for only 10% of the defendants compared to being 50% of the population, chances are that women are more careful drivers who don't get targeted as much by police officers.

Try to conceal your race if you are not White while driving. The easiest way is to wear sunglasses and a hat to cover your hair and eyes. The law also allows you to tint your windows of varying degrees. You might even consider buying a long blond wig as well. Sounds ridiculous, but I'm just being logical with my observations. The more you can conceal your racial identity if you are a minority, the better, given 98% of the defendants in the courtroom were minorities.

Finally, get comprehensive car insurance unless your car is so cheap that it's not worth it. I only had liability insurance on Moose because if I got into an accident, I guessed there was a 50% chance the other driver would have caused it and therefore would pay to fix Moose. And if it was my fault, Moose was cheap enough to donate away for parts as a 14 year old vehicle with a lot of problems. But now that I witnessed half of the drivers didn't have valid licenses or insurance, I think I overestimated my chances the other driver's insurance would pay for a damage they caused. Make sure your insurance has uninsured motorist coverage, as that might be extra.

Women get pulled over less than men because: (pick up to two)

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If you go to court, you will usually get leniency from the judge to have your ticket reduced. 100% of the defendants who decided to plead no contest got their ticket fines reduced by 50%-70%. If you plead no contest, the plea does not count against you in any civil suit or other legal suit. You get to go to traffic school (4 hours online, 8 hours in person), which allows you to avoid a point on your driving record.

Depending on your driving record, your insurance premiums could increase significantly with an extra point, and stay that way for years until the violation is removed. In California, a point lasts on your record for three years and one month, for example. Let's say my premium would have gone up 30% every six months. That would be $1,200 more in premiums I would have to pay over three years.

The problem with going to driving school is the cost and time. There's an “administration fee” of $52 in California. Hence, despite my ticket being reduced from $238 to $119, I still have to pay a total of $172 plus my time completing traffic school. I was very close to just saying “screw it,” paying the $238 fine, and skipping out on traffic school because I've had a clean driving record for the past eight years. And I did not believe my insurance would go up after talking to USAA. But like I said earlier, I wanted to see if I could find any insights into this experience. Be aware that you have to pay for traffic school up front. And if you decide you are too busy to go to traffic school after you've paid, you don't get a refund.

Finally, if you decide to have your second day in court (the first day is arbitration), know that if you lose, you will not only have to pay the original ticket fine, there's a high chance you won't be eligible for traffic school anymore. Furthermore, if you have a bad driving record, the arbitration judge said your second judge could impose additional penalties if you are found guilty.

I hope everybody got some helpful insights out of this arduous journey. The judge said to me, “You thoroughly investigated all your options unlike any other I've met in my courtroom before.” His response and the articles that have come out of this $238 ticket (reduced to $172 all-in) have made it all worth it.

Do you think police officers conduct racial profiling since 98% of the defendants are minorities in this courtroom example? (Answer up to two)

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Some tips on how to not get your ass kicked by Chris Rock:

Related posts:

How Much Does My Car Insurance Go Up If I Get A Traffic Ticket?

Should I Go To Court To Fight My Speeding Ticket?


* Lower Your Auto Insurance Costs: Check out Esurance online. They have some of the best plans with the lowest rates around due to their lower overhead costs. It's worth spending a moment filling out a quote to see if you can save some money. Car insurance is one of the largest ongoing expenses for car owners. Esurance has good driver discounts, and multi-product discounts as well.

Updated for 2019 and beyond.

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89 thoughts on “How To Not Get Pulled Over For A Traffic Ticket: Race And Sex Matter!”

  1. You’re forgetting to factor in being an attractive woman with large breasts in a tank top on a hot day. Over the past month here in Los Angeles it has been dramatically hotter than usual and since I don’t have air conditioning, I wear a tank top while driving.

    I have jumped from having not been pulled over once in more than 10 years to being pulled over 4 times in one week. Because I follow all laws and my insurance is paid, they were unable to “put” anything on me and I was allowed to go on my merry way. But I’m tired of being terrorized and hazed everytime I drive a car I happen to own on streets and highways my taxes paid for, and this has increased in the past week dramatically.

    I’m that certain rare type of African-American woman considered very attractive by white and Latin males. I date them, but I’m also often sexually harassed by the ones I don’t. The incidence of my being pulled over has escalated over one thousand percent in the last 3 weeks. Each time, the white or Hispanic male officer concluded his fruitless search for violations by flirting with me.

    Fact is, most police officers are male. The second fact is, if heterosexual they are definitely going to visually a notice a so-called, supposedly attractive young female with large breasts if she’s wearing something sleeveless that doesn’t conceal them. Best way to make contact with her? Fabricate a reason to pull her over.

    But then again it could be because I drive a luxury vehicle and I’m a partially African American woman. You see, “we’re not supposed to own those”. So who knows…

  2. Thanks for the info on how the process works. I am down in San Diego trying to decide whether to appear in court or not. It seems like there is an advantage to appearing in court (I didn’t realize traffic school was $52 ON TOP of the fine. With great insurance and no tickets for 10+ years, I am seriously debating whether traffic school is worth it?!?!? I started out reading your other post on that) From other info I’ve read on the internet, I think delaying my court date online and not a Tuesday (the day of the assigned court date) may be worth a shot–like the cop won’t show. ??? I was part of a trap so he may have so many tickets on his assigned day he won’t remember/care about one or two straggling. Who knows…

    As far as women and confrontation, yes! As a general statement, we avoid confrontation until the problem becomes worse than the idea of confrontation. In my psych classes, I remember reading about experiments where both sides of a hetero couple were strapped up with heart rate monitors, blood pressure recording devices, etc. Both sides of the couple were to bring up a difficult subject. Regardless of who was bringing up the subject, women’s measurements skyrocketed compared to men.

  3. The thought of men driving around in drag to avoid getting tickets made me laugh out loud! I think there was a Simpsons episode where he drove around with a blow up doll to get into the HOV lane, funny stuff! Thanks for following up on the article, Sam. Good information, very interesting! It sounds like you guys are a bit unlucky in CA; Up here in North Dakota, a speeding ticket will range between $20-$50.

      1. Definitely avoid speeding in Florida. I hear it’s cvery expensive. That’s why I drive a Saab. ;)

        1. LOL. But with those low prices, people can build mega mansions for $500,000 and never have to leave their house ever again! Heated pool, sauna, steam room, 20 person jacuzzi, all good.

  4. There is also the mental reasons for fighting a ticket. Can any conclusions be drawn based on race for fighting a ticket? I have no idea. All I know is I have received 2 speeding tickets during my years of driving. Both times I was speeding….radar/laser was pretty much dead on with the speed I was traveling. I knew the consequences so why go fight it? I broke the law….simple fact. If I don’t like the law, I can try to change it, but if I break said law knowing it was unlawful at the time of committing the crime, what is there to fight?

    Also the ticket/law that you are fighting has a lot to do with it as well. A speeding ticket typically has little affect on you going forward unless you are racking them up very fast. Driving without a license or insurance can create more lasting problems of trying to get to a job, etc. What are the stats of the number of drivers driving without a license or insurance of a particular race? I say there is some correlation to that data with what you saw in court and therefore more showed up to fight a ticket with a more lasting effect.

    And to the larger topic which made you bring up this topic on a retirement website. :) If I commit a robbery, aggravated assault, and also aggravated assault on a police officer, reaching for an officers gun, all while trying to flee a crime scene, things are going to get ugly. Therefore you will not ever see me doing any of the above 4 crimes and therefore will not be in a position to be shot by a police officer. Call me old school white guy, but imho most problems start at home. And to relate this to finances, I started cleaning tables at a local restaurant at the age of 13 years old. I had money to buy stuff at a convenience and not steal it. I purchased my first “big purchase” at 14 years old by paying $2000 cash for a Kawasaki JS550 Jet Ski. I started maxing out Roth IRAs with said bussing table money at 18. End result, I am reading a website titled Financial Samurai and truly believe I could retire at the current age of 35 if I needed to. No plans to as of now. Again, the best place for things to change is at the home.

    Just an FYI, I have been told to get out of the middle of a road by a police officer before. I said okay sir…sorry. Things went pretty well.

    1. DT, those are some good points. I went to court to learn if I could report back any interesting discoveries on traffic laws, money saving tips, and ways readers can save money on traffic tickets. I didn’t go to court to talk about race and gender. But when I went to court, I was blown away by how skewed the demographics were, so I felt it my duty to report back and have a discussion.

      Good things come out of having open discussions. The link to Ferguson is the best link I’ve found that displays what happened, b/c a lot of people are ignorant of what happened. They just make conclusions based on race. The NY Times links highlights as much as possible. I don’t a normal person doing normal things would get shot multiple times randomly either. But who knows the truth? All we have are outcomes and he said, she said.

      Race and gender are interesting topics because they DO positively or negatively affect your earnings, depending on what strategies you take in life. I’ve seen nepotism, cronyism, and racism my entire career. There are very subtle moves, but and I realized long ago it’s the way things will always be. One just has to be more adept during the navigation process.

      I haven’t felt racism in a long time as I wrote in my post. And perhaps it’s because I’m less sensitive or no longer care b/c I’ve achieved my financial nut. But I’m thinking about others who have not. A discussion brings about awareness. Discussion make us empathize with others. Discussion also allows us to appreciate what we have and maybe help others too.

  5. In Hawaii its less about race, since most of the population and police force are mixed. It’s more about who you know, if you can connect, what high school you went to (Kamehameha, etc.). It is very likely that police take care of their own, probably most of the time subconsiously. In your case, it was probably racial profiling, just not on malicious grounds, more of a generalization.

  6. SF has unique demographics so I cannot comment on the over or under representation of some minorities.

    Men are much more aggressive than female drivers. Driving fatalities and injuries bear this out. So we probably deserve more tickets.

    Black men are particularly targeted by the police.. And if they are stopped their chances of being ticketed are much higher than white males. Im a darker skinned white guy with southern European ancestors, and I’ve been let go with a warning for some fairly egregious violations over the years. Most of the time the cop seems to be looking for a way out without ticketing me.

    And this harsh treatment of blacks while driving is the start of a dangerous spiral… Many of them are poor and cannot afford the ticket, so they loose their license and their insurance and down the criminal rabbit hole they go. It is very sad.

  7. My step father was a police officer. I am certain that, knowing his personality, he would not arbitrarily profile. However, I do think that people have some level of inherent ability to “judge a book by it’s cover” in many daily circumstances.

    I look like your average white boy next door. If I wear a red shirt to Target people will ask me where to find things.

    I know so many incredibly racist people. The racist jokes fly around my workplace unabated. It makes me sad and sick to see people that I know and love be so mean about entire segments of people.

  8. I really think men just tend to be far more aggressive and dangerous when driving. I can’t think of any good examples of this from women drivers I’ve seen, but hundreds of times have seen guys ‘hooning’ along the road.

    I know it’s not in any of your categories above, but whenever I’ve been pulled up by someone in authority, I have tended to play the dumb, innocent little boy who doesn’t know any better. Once after jumping on a train that was leaving the station (not a great idea, but I was young, silly, and late for something which I’m sure was very important) the inspector on the train brought me to the front of the train and proceeded to write out a big fine. I actually let a few tears go and acted very panicked, and he let me off with a warning! I’m probably a little too old to go that far now, but often if your nice and respectful you have a far better chance, like Brian said above.

    I’ve often also considered trying to put on the old Irish accent, but that’s just asking for trouble if you don’t pull it off…

    1. I can attest to that – crying works. Especially, if you are woman and police officer is a man.

  9. Whenever people tell me that police don’t use racial profiling when making traffic stops I have a good laugh. As a black male I’ve only been stopped for speeding four times in 18 years but two of those times I had my car pulled apart looking for drugs.

    1. Well Jeff, I can’t really speak for “police” as a group. You’ll find there are good and bad, lazy and hardworking. Just like in that other group you mention, “black males.” Is there racial profiling out there? Absolutely. Is it effective? No. Criminal profiling is extremely effective though. I don’t have the space to go into it, but if you ever get to spend a few hours in booking, you’ll get the picture. I like finding drugs though, so if your car smells like weed, expect a search. My last drug arrest was two white guys, if that makes you feel better.

    2. Jeff I’ve been stopped for speeding with a bong in front of my cop then noticed by registration and license had expired, and I didn’t do well on the field test… He was so disgusted by me he said I wasn’t worth teh paperwork and escorted me my buddy and my car to the city limits and told me never to return.

      Race makes all the difference sad to say.

  10. You could say I have intimate knowledge from the other side of the spectrum… here’s my take. I don’t work on traffic tickets specifically, but am on the road and try to make stops that will result in further charges, e.g., suspended license, drugs, warrants. I look for cars that thugs drive. Crappy Hondas and Acuras are good targets. Or possibly a car that looks like one on our radar for other crimes (auto burglars are using newer rental cars, but suspect description tends toward black/Hispanic).Once I see a car I like, I’ll look for probable cause to stop them, moving violation or equipment. Rarely do I even know who the driver is before I’ve stopped them. On occasion, when I see an 88 Monte Carlo or 98 Accord that looks promising, I’ll see the driver is elderly and pass it by. Women are fair game, especially a woman driving a man. Most gangsters keep cars in their gf’s name.
    As far as traffic, when I’m in court I see a much different spread than you report. Most recently, the majority of the defendants were Asian females. One had a defense of, “My GPS told me to turn left!” … seriously.

      1. I work near SF and am also a RE investor. That must be how I found your site. It’s really enjoyable, so please keep up the good work. As far as stories, I’ve got tons, but they’re not really suitable for a financial forum :-)

    1. Well dang! I guess that is why I was pulled over or had my license plates ran so many times. Being black and driving a paid for honda that could have used a paint job.

  11. Seriously, I would be interested in how many of the defendants were native-born Americans. With the tail-gating, rolling ‘stop’, speeding, no insurance, driving without a license…I have to think these people are importing their third-world driving habits. SF is a ‘sanctuary city’ where no human being is illegal and half the dudes are already looking like women, if you know what I mean and I think you do.

    As for the ‘loud-music’ ticket, it sounds like a “don’t be an azzhole” ticket; the police are just people, and when somebody is belligerent or disrespectful they will make a point on the ticket. That, or the Brother was rocking KGMZ 95.7, San Francisco’s ‘Hot Country’, in which case the fine was deserved.

      1. What percent would you guess are native-born U.S.? Speak English as a first language? The reason I ask, driving cultures in Asian and S. American countries are much different (more aggressive) than in the U.S. and driving laws are not understood nearly as well compared to someone born in the U.S. and driving since their teens.

  12. You also have to wonder if they are targeting specific sections of the city for the dates in question. Hence if they set up a traffic cop due to speeding complaints in a Hispanic or White neighborhood they would likely pull in a larger percentage of Hispanic or White drivers respectively. Often those kinds of traffic ticket stops can be based on complaints (people driving fast near elementary schools is one that get’s mothers on the phone for example) or recent accidents in an area and can generate a larger number of stops than officers on patrol.

    I also feel that you left age out of the profiling, were most of them younger, i.e. under 30? Most of us have an idea of younger folks being more aggressive and more likely to get tickets regardless of race.

    You also haven’t considered there is a higher likelihood of police presence in poor neighborhoods, so they are potentially more likely to notice bad driving behavior and react, and many of those poorer neighborhoods may be disproportionate to the general population.

    Guess I’m saying way too many variables to draw a proper conclusion.

    I always have, and have always recommended that you go in and fight the ticket if possible both because you can often save money on the fine and for three plus years on your insurance.

    With respect to the profiling I think of profiling (with respect to traffic stops) as pulling someone over for no real reason other than to have an excuse to check for a different crime than driving badly. For example, pulling someone over because the officer suspects that they might be a drug courier even though they were driving within the law. It bothers me that the discourse is “look at all the X people here, it’s profiling” versus “is there a reason so many X people are breaking the law?” Breaking the law shouldn’t be allowable, and is not an excuse. Stop breaking the law, and you are less likely to be given tickets. When I got a ticket and everyone else around me was speeding as well, it wasn’t “fair”, but I don’t use the excuse that I’m being profiled so I shouldn’t get a ticket. I was speeding, I took a risk, and that day I got busted. That’s no more justification than a “peaceful” protester claiming he didn’t break the window so he shouldn’t suffer the consequences of getting busted for walking off with a TV from the store.

    1. There are definitely a lot of variables to consider, which is why I appreciate the community pitching in to share their thoughts.

      Regarding your profiling standpoint, I agree. And what if you thought you were going the speed limit in the middle of rush hour b/c you can’t go faster than 25 and you got pulled over when everybody else was going 25?

    1. Amazing, I forgot to say! After listening to almost all the cases, I took the plea of agreeing to donate $119 (half off) to the city for my supposed violation and pay another $52 to attend online traffic school within 90 days. The city wins again!

  13. Recently I read that a 6 year old Hispanic female is now the majority in the US. Not Caucasian. So that shows the shifting race starting in 2008. It will be interesting to see if the Caucasian’s get minority privledges.

    1. Will never be a need for that. White politicians & those with money have put systems into play to where that will never be the case. See gerrymandering.

  14. Your Hispanic friend is wrong to claim you’re targeted by a white cop. It’s completely wrong, but blacks and Hispanics are targeted because there’s a perception of higher criminal element in those communities by the police and the general public.

    1. Maybe he was joking, but the funniest thing is, he works in the criminal investigations depart at 850 Bryant St, the same building where I went to the courtroom, AND I bumped into him in the lobby! He escorted me up to the courtroom. Small world! We are good friends and he’s my long time doubles partner. He’s told me so many stories about protecting witnesses, investigating domestic violence and gang cases etc.

      He actually said the Asian gangs are the scariest in SF. T

    1. ZERO! And there are a lot of you guys in the Bay Area! :)

      Hence, another conclusion is to:

      Always make your Indian friends drive! This comes in handy when you go on a 15 hour roadtrip and don’t want to drive. Just send your Indian friend and your white female friend this post and make them drive for the good of the entire group!

  15. Interesting article although not sure how it relates to finance. Race and gender matter in every facet of life in every culture. Also everyone has some sort of racial and gender biased views. However, U.S. and SF especially, is still without a doubt the least racist country in the world for a minority population to thrive.

    1. Most of us find paying for traffic tickets to be painful. The range was $238-$900. That has everything to do with finance.

      Perhaps you don’t find the connection b/c that amount is not painful to you b/c you have a lot of money? In which case, congrats!

      From my post:

      I had one main objective for deciding to go to court to fight my ticket: to understand the system and report back to help other readers figure out what to do. I’ve never gone to court for a traffic ticket, so I figured I might as well learn. Financial Samurai is all about providing helpful information based off real experience.

      1. Believe me, you’re doing much much better financially than I am. I understand paying traffic ticket is unpleasant and painful for most people. However, I didn’t understand why you felt you needed to bring what I feel was an unnecessary race angle to it with statement such as try to conceal your race or look like a woman when driving to reduce chance of a ticket. Those statement seemed to be a bit of race baiting to me.

        1. I’ve provided an observation Josh. With 98% of the defendants minorities, I thought there was some insight to share. And from the comments and the polls, I think the findings have so far been fascinating.

          It feels like we’re at an inflection point with racial issues in America. I hope people become more aware and not just ignore it.

  16. The eternal optimist in me says that those responsible for enforcing the law are treating everyone equally. But my understanding of the human mind and how our emotions work tells me that’s probably not the case. I’ve been pulled over three times in my life and only once received a ticket. Who knows what goes through a cops head when they are deciding whether or not to issue a ticket. I do know this though…ALWAYS be respectful when pulled over. Use lots of “Yes sirs.”

  17. Fascinating observations Sam! Funny how some commenters get so bent out of shape. It’s totally a reflection of who they are, as if they were accused of being racist, or they feel like they are getting the short-end of the stick.

    I like the parallel you draw of women not wanting confrontation, and therefore not wanting to go to court and not wanting to ask their bosses for a raise. I think this is so true. Women also tend to congregate in the work environment, form groups, and sometimes gang up on others.

    It’s just human nature. We are all bias. To say we are not, and to say we don’t have tendencies would be a lie.

    1. Thanks. I think I am being very fair with my answers in my polls. I’m always interested in seeing the results as well. Race and sex are such touchy subjects, just like money actually. But why do they have to be sensitive topics? Why can’t we just have some dialogue and come to some positive resolutions? That’s what I’m hoping for.

  18. I’m as white as they come, but I remember feeling helpless and discriminated against as a teenager when I got pulled over for no reason (I swear!), searched, and cuffed by a female cop. It definitely makes me empathize with people who are consistently victims of that type of thing. To make it even better, I was wearing my D.A.R.E. sweater at the time. Luckily the ticket ended up getting thrown out for some reason, and I didn’t have to go through the process of fighting it.

  19. Unless terms vary state by state, “comprehensive” insurance covers hail damage and wingsheild cracks. You need “Uninsured/Underinsured Drivers” insurance to cover damage from people who aren’t insured.

    Pleading No Contest is apparently different there than here in Tulsa, when I went to traffic court, most people plead No Contest and the judge said they were guilty and made them pay their entire fine. They wasted their time coming. I talked to the prosecutors office and they told me to plead innocent, get a court date, then call them back and they’d make a deal with me. I did exactly that and just had to pay court costs and go to defensive driving school.

    Twice In high school I got out of a couple of speeding tickets because I didn’t have my insurance verification form on me. I was very nice to the cops and they gave me tickets for no insurance and warnings for my speed. Then each time I took my ticket and insurance verification to the court clerk who dismissed the ticket immediately after seeing that I had been covered. A few years later I asked a cop friend why that happened, he said that if you’re nice to the cop, then cop will only want to give you one ticket and the no insurance ticket carries a much steeper penalty than the speeding ticket, so that’s the one they give you. I don’t know if that works for non-whites.

    A few years ago I read an article about a guy got his teenage son out of a speeding ticket because he has tracking on his son’s cell phone and was able to show that the cell phone was not speeding at the time and location that the cop said the kid was speeding. So that might be another way if you were really not speeding.

    1. The term must very state by state, b/c comprehensive generally means comprehensive, as in everything. But, you make a very good point and people should ask about getting “uninsured insurance” and clarify. You don’t want to think you’re paying for something, when you’re actually getting something else.

  20. This post was fascinating to me because I haven’t been pulled over before and I haven’t been to court either. I do tend to drive slow, so that has probably helped. The stats about your court room that surprised me the most were the low percentage of women and the number of people driving without a license.

    If I had gotten a ticket, I probably would have just paid it and mailed it in, putting me in the non confrontational category of women. But if the fee was large enough and knowing now that just showing up for court and pleading no contest leads to a reduced fee, I’d be inclined to do that as long as it wasn’t too hard to take off of work.

    It’d be interesting to see the numbers on tickets pre court too. There are a good number of aggressive female drivers out there too, who have a lead foot. One of my older friends is one of them and she’s had multiple speeding tickets in her day.

    Thanks for sharing so many insights about the court process and weighing the options on what action to take if you get a traffic ticket.

  21. Chicagoteacher

    Do they have to show up in court if they do not have a license?
    I think that more affluent people do not show up b/c it costs more taking a day off of work. I have 3 days off of work as a Chicago teacher during the school year. I would rather use that for vacation than going to court.

    In Chicago, I got pulled over for not stopping at a stop sign and got a ticket. I was in a busy area of the city coming home from a painful dentist appointment. I was not too happy and was standing outside my car with the cop. Then, I got pulled over again a block later. I guess my tail light was out hence why the cop thought I did not stop earlier. I probably did or made a rolling Chicago stop. I was too tired after a dentist appointment to notice. I did get a ticket and went to driving school one Saturday morning for 4 hours (painful). It is more expensive to take the online course than just going to the driving school.
    With speed cameras, parking restrictions (I pay $125 a year to park on my street), and other issues – I wish I could get rid of my car. However, its too cold here in the winter, my computer for work is too heavy and I do not use the car much over the summer as a teacher.

    1. They all showed up with proof of insurance and a valid license (takes usually 2 months after getting the ticket to get a court date), or they show up and tell the judge they still don’t have a valid license, but plan to get one. The judge reduced the fine of 100% of around 15-20 people who wanted to plead no contest to a reduced fine. The people without valid drivers license also got a reduced fine.

      I could tell the judge really wanted to help people out. He was kind, and took the time to listen to everyone’s concerns and questions. He recognized the money difficulties many of the defendants had, and asked MANY times to many defendants whether they needed more time to pay the fines. The judge gave me hope the system isn’t just out to get people to collect max revenue for a budget deficit city.

  22. Now you’re fanning the race card fire sam? Just what this country comprised of at least 50% ignorant & uninformed needs.

    Don’t take this as a personal attack because it’s not, but this is the worst article you’ve written.

    1. Ah, you forgot about sexism too! Please don’t forget to vote in both polls. What race are you?

      Oh yeah, please continue to help me with grammar and punctuation per your previous comment. I really do appreciate the grammar police b/c I miss things and can easily go back and edit the post to make them better. Thanks!

  23. Putting my occupation out there so you know my bias. ;-)

    Thank you for your insights. I do have a few minor quibbles.
    First, I think you miss a big point about male vs female ticket stats. How many couples do you know where the woman drives more than the man? I know of two out of all those I know, and in both cases the man always drove the majority of the time until his health interfered with driving. I suspect one reason for the discrepancy in tickets vs the gender percentages in population is that in general men drive more miles annually. Oddly enough, though, many of the drug cases I see started with a traffic stop of a female driver for speeding.

    Next, I can’t give you stats off the top of my head, but my impression is that women are much more likely to just pay the fine. They just don’t have time to spend an entire day on traffic court. As one woman said to me the other day about a man fighting a ticket, “Sheesh, just be done with it already!”

    We also can’t tell from your experience how many who showed up were without a wage-paying job, which would affect how much going to court would cost them. While the unemployment discrepancies might well be due to racism, that doesn’t mean the traffic court attendance is a direct rather than an indirect consequence. That’s one of the vicious things about racism: it worms its effects into places where objectively it doesn’t exist.

    Also, you have a large implicit assumption that all ticketed people either showed up for court or paid the fine. I can assure you there’s a large body of bench warrants for failure to appear floating around in the system, and who knows the breakdown on those?

    Also, keep in mind that every state is different. Not everybody has driving classes, etc.

    Finally, I’m not saying profiling never happens, but caution that we need to be careful because sometimes we see what we want to see. I’ll bore you with an old story that I know to be true. The ACLU once used as their “poster card” example of racial profiling and uneven enforcement a complaint from a male minority member that a cop stopped him to check his license when he had absolutely no moving violation. And they were right that the only charge was for driving with a revoked license, with not even a warning ticket for a moving violation. Thing was: that cop and defendant had both been in court the day before, when the cop saw the judge revoke the guy’s drivers license as part of a DUI sentence. Minor detail….

    1. Dear Prosecutor,

      Wonderful insights! Do you think we can get to know each other better so if I ever see you on the other side of the table, you’ll show leniency? I mean, if we are brothers in arms, or if I helped you or your family out, surely you’d give me a break right? :)

      It is interesting you point out that more men drive than women in relationships. Why do you think that is? I would love to just not drive, because I hate driving for reasons such as traffic and tickets!

      The thing is, I AM giving you statistics from what I saw in my courtroom, and the 30-40 people standing in the hallway for courtroom B who looked like the same demographics in my courtroom. Your thoughts are anecdotes.

      Your last point on my implicit assumption that all ticketed people show up or pay the fine. Are you saying that minorities are much more honorable in showing up and paying the fine given they made up 98% of my courtroom? If so, please share why. Thanks!

      1. I don’t know why the male part of couples drive more — or even that they do; it’s just my perception. My cynical view is that men feel the need to be in control while women are socialized from birth to think they should cede control to men and avoid all things mechanical. On your point about the stats: the thing is, you are looking at a very small subset of people going to court with no way of knowing how it compares to the whole. It’s certainly interesting to discuss, but there may be variables that skewed things on that particular day. We have no way of knowing.
        On who shows up: I don’t have the statistics. I can give you my impression for my area, which is that it is pretty evenly distributed among the subsets of defendants. That tells us nothing about the question of profiling, though, nor how people are treated once they get into the system (an entirely different can of worms).

  24. Emily @ Simple Cheap Mom

    I was shocked to see the number of people driving without a license!

    It would be interesting to see the data for the total number ticketed to see if there was a difference in demographics.

  25. Done by Forty

    We could probably draw similar conclusions about the entire police and court system based on your observations.

    While it’s certainly possible that whites and women either did not challenge the tickets or did not actually commit traffic violations as often, I think it’s a stretch to say that accounts for the entire disparity you observed. There’s a bias present.

    1. I was truly surprised that there was only one white defendant in the entire courtroom. It’s intriguing at least to me on finding out why. The courtroom clerk specifically said no video or cameras, but I wish I recorded the demographics for all to see.

      There’s no bias here, even as an Asian minority. I said it was a coincidence in the beginning of my post, and I’ve given a balanced set of answers in the polls.

      People tend to vote along racial lines. And given the majority of this audience is white, and reflects the U.S. population, it will be fascinating to see what the polls come back with!

      1. Done by Forty

        Sam, just to clarify, I mean there is a bias present in the police system, not in your writing.

  26. Oh look, another blog or article about how white people are racists and minorities are victims. I haven’t seen many of these the last few days.

    This is my favorite blog. I truly look forward to reading it and appreciate how often you write. However, I was worried you were going to be “inspired” by the recent Ferguson events to write something regarding race… and here it is. This blog is best when you are “slicing through money’s mysteries” and not race-baiting.

    You largely write to an audience that is intelligent, responsible, motivated, and mostly not in the business of making excuses. This entry will not resonate well with most of your readers.

    Personal story: I have been pulled over 6 times and received 5 speeding tickets in my 15 years of driving. Each one I was over the limit between 7 and 15mph. Crazy-fast speeds! I’m a white male. Dang, you’d think my skin color would have been enough to avoid those tickets.

    I truly feel sorry for your law-breaking list of minority victims above. Maybe they could look into skin bleaching in their future efforts to evade the police?

    1. No need for skin bleaching. Just buy a blond wig to transform yourself into a woman, and all is good.

      I think I have a fairly balanced poll of answers with actually three no’s to two yes’s on racial profiling.

      Of course not every white person is racist, like not every Latino drives without a valid driver’s license. I’m sharing my experience in court, coming to some theories, and having the community share their thoughts on the comments and polls.

      I’m looking forward to seeing the poll results after the 200 mark. Most people who vote will be white, given demographics of America and this site, so let’s see what happens speed racer!

    2. LSH and Ace

      Racial Profiling is alive and well. Before I earned my driver’s license, my dad and uncles warned me about driving while black, aka racial profiling. As a black male from the south, I have received 4 speeding tickets, all justified. I have also been pulled over multiple times while NOT breaking a traffic law (11 times to date). In those instances, all of the cops performed the same routine. They take the time to shine their flashlight into the car (backseat, passenger front seat, console, etc). The excuses they gave for pulling me over were all generic, “you fit the description”, “Your blinker is out (outright lie)”, “You looked lost (aka your black in a predominantly white neighborhood)”. Then there are the countless times a cop has tailed my bumper in order to run the plates to check for outstanding warrants or tickets.

      If you google “driving while black”, you would find a slew of articles on the topic. The state in which i resided, if the cop does not issue a traffic citation during the traffic stop, that traffic stop does not count in the final stats for total traffic stops. On paper, a cop would appear to be nondiscriminatory in traffic stops, even though he targets minorities.

      This account comes from a professional engineer (EIT and PE). My other college educated black friends have similar experiences.

      LSH, cops only stop you when an actually traffic violation has occured. You know nothing of what happens to people of color during traffic stops.

      Ace, cops are knowledgeable about the communities in which they serve, but they are merely guessing when it comes to traffic stops. Its more a numbers games than cop intuition.

      1. Hi Jim, thanks for sharing your insights!

        Getting pulled over 11 times to date for NOT breaking a traffic law seems extreme to me. 1 – 2 times maybe, but not 11 times!

        I’ve been pulled over once for a grey area…. accelerating through a yellow light. But I didn’t get a ticket.

      2. I completely agree with Jim’s comments above. Racial profiling lives and breathes in the USA. I’m not saying we have to go on a crusade to stop it, but anybody who pretends this isn’t a problem is kidding themselves. It’s quite easy to dismiss when you’re not the one that’s being needlessly harassed.

        Like Jim, I’m also black and also highly educated (Ph.D in Biology) and most of my black friends of a similar background have the same story. Most of my black friends that grew up in non-urban areas have been pulled over multiple times for “driving while black”. It happens every day. Personally, it’s happened to me no less than 15 times (although I never actually counted) and out of all those times being pulled over, the only ticket I ever got was once for not wearing a seat belt (this was somewhat common in the early 90’s). I remember one story in particular when I was driving home from college on winter break, I was pulled over twice within the town limits before I even got home (this was in rural Illinois). Excuses are always the same, “no blinker when changing lanes”, “following too closely”, “saw you swerving”…I’ve heard them all. I’d say it has happened less frequently as I’ve gotten older, but it is hard to say why. Maybe “old and black” is less of a threat than “young and black”. Maybe it’s because my cars are nicer, or perhaps being in different neighborhoods helps. Either way, I think it’s important to point out to your readers that there is definitely an underlying truth to your observations. For those of us who deal with this as part of our lives, it can be a bit frustrating to be targeted, but it’s even more frustrating when I see commenters who instead of acknowledging the problem is real, spend time trying to analyze your method of data collection and analysis.

    3. @JL and Jim Juber,First, I’m sorry to hear about your experiences. Second, of course racial-profiling exists. Third, the problem does not begin and end with police. There are two sides to the interaction, always.

      African-Americans commit a significantly disproportionate amount of crime, as FBI Table 43-crimes by ethnicity bears out. You can drill down on the link for details, but the top-level numbers for arrests are 28% African American (much higher than that for violent crime). African Americans are 12% of the overall US population. Males commit over 90% of all crime (much higher than that for violent crime). So call it 6% for African-American males. But most African-American males are too young or too old to commit crimes (the predominance is males 16-35). So you have 3% of the U.S. population committing 28% of the nations crime. Each number (of the millions compiled in this statistic) is a real person.

      When an officer pulls over a Black male, there is a greater chance for conflict (violent, verbal, or non-verbal). You have most likely heard the stories about police “tossing” the vehicle, but that is a passive-aggressive response to a passive-aggressive subject. You also know that (especially to show off in the company of others) Black males will make sudden moves, to their waistband, under their seat, to the glove compartment. They are provoking the officer, making them afraid, perhaps pull their weapon. Passive-aggressively answering questions that aren’t asked, bypassing direct inquiries, attempting to exit the vehicle, putting their hands out of view, and challenging the officer’s authority (directly and indirectly). I have watched a car (tinted windows) full of young Black males pulled over, and start blasting NWA’s “F*** Tha Police!”; it may seem funny now, but it was a very tense and hostile moment to observe and I was glad I was only watching. Anyway, I don’t have to tell you how it is done, you have seen and lived it. And it accomplishes nothing, except setting a precedent for the next police interaction.

      Here is what I do when I’m pulled over: Turn on the cab light so the officer can see the backseat and footwells, roll down both driver and passenger windows, remain in the vehicle and put both my empty hands out the driver’s windows. People kill with their hands (and the police car is running tape, so it will be clear that I am cooperating before the officer leaves their vehicle). My goal is to put the officer at ease, because he/she does not know what they are dealing with until they run the plates and ask for license and registration. The tone of the encounter is set by the way this lawful request is answered. When asked a question, answer truthfully. If you don’t know, just say you don’t know. Don’t “act” (innocent, lost, sexy, irritated, etc.) because officers have seen it all and it never helps get anyone out of a ticket.

      As PE and Phd., you both deal with every day with lots of people and have to make judgments on who-and-what you are dealing with in the workplace. Police are just people, and respond to respect and truthfulness. They don’t enjoy interacting with difficult or aggressive people, just like you don’t. One thing is for sure, it is likely you will be pulled over again. You are entitled to respect in any police encounter, and the fastest way to that is to show respect. I hope you will look outside yourself as an individual, realize that you are perceived as part of a group until you establish contact with the officer, and think about the larger problems faced by police and what is causing those problems for society. Thanks for reading.

  27. WhitePerson

    Interesting findings Sam! A $900 ticket for blasting one’s car music? Amusing!

    The police officers probably do racial profiling and have a softer spot for women because they have years of statistics showing men who are certain races tend to violate more traffic laws. Sucks to be those men and those races who don’t, or go with the flow, but that’s just the way it is.

    So the question is whether the statistics from the very beginning have been biased! Ah hah!

    1. Something to think about; if I got a ticket for an outrageous sum I’d be more likely to go into court to fight it rather than a lower fine.

      Maybe minorities tend to get thrown higher ticket amounts for an equitable offense???

  28. I just had my first speeding ticket since High School, I’m 52. Not bragging but I think I’m a pretty good driver and that was kind of a shock to get pulled over. I took an online driver safety course which cost $140 and the $265 ticket was dismissed.

  29. There could be selection bias here. Most people who get tickets don’t have to go to court. You can just suck it up and pay the fine. Perhaps white people and women are less likely to go to court because they don’t think it’s worth the hassle.

    Also, there are several debates about who are the better drivers–men or women. There is a separate question here, which is who obeys traffic laws more closely. Men tend to be more risk averse than women, which could mean that they take more chances and break more laws, independent of actual accident risk.

    1. Excellent point Heather about women less likely to go to court. I have updated the gender poll to add this selection. Only three votes were entered when the addition was made. Thanks for sharing this point. This is why I love reading comments and hearing from the community!

      BTW, there was Courtroom B just next door with another 30-40 people standing outside the hallway. The demographic make up was quite similar.

      Also, your point about women “not thinking it’s worth the hassle” got me thinking. Perhaps there’s a similar belief with not wanting to bother asking for a raise and a promotion at the margin? Men do seem more aggressive and confrontational, so I wonder if there is any correlation with attitude about belief and confrontation in the work place.

      1. WhitePerson

        There is definitely a correlation of women not wanting to be confrontational to not fighting a ticket or asking for a raise or promotion!

    2. The Alchemist

      You have this backward. You wrote, “Men tend to be more risk averse than women, which could mean that they take more chances and break more laws…” If men were *more* risk averse, they would take FEWER chances and break FEWER laws.

      Being “risk averse” means that you are conservative and don’t like to take risks.

    3. I agree with Heather that women are more risk averse (though she put it the other way round). I find that men will tend to break rules, e.g. go over the speed limit either to prove that their car is faster than the guy driving a more expensive car in the next lane or because they just can. Good communication skills also help. From my own experience back home, I sometimes got out of trouble because I chatted to police officers, apologized profusely and sweetly and they let me off with only a verbal warning. Calling them bwana (boss) in every other sentence seemed not to hurt.

    4. Jay @ ThinkingWealthy

      Women are also less likely to get ticketed! I’ve been pulled over twice and gotten tickets both times (I shared my story about the $500 speeding ticket on an older post here). My fiance has been pulled over no less than 8 times and has gotten a warning every time!

      1. 8 times pulled over and getting let go 100% of the time is an incredible data point! Perhaps male police officers are more lenient with women, no?

        What is your lady doing to get pulled over so much? If nothing much, it almost seems like harassment.

  30. The fact that over 50% didn’t have valid licenses speaks volumes. You’re either guilty or you’re not, right?

    1. Not sure. It’s not like police officers can tell who is driving with or without a valid license. They were pulled over for violating some law (not coming to a complete stop, illegal left turn, speeding) and then it was discovered they didn’t have valid licenses.

      But, if my courtroom example is a typical day, then police officers can see a pattern. They might therefore use racial profiling to go after more Hispanic and Asian drivers because they’ve seen from the hundreds pulled over every year that 50% or more who break a traffic law don’t have valid drivers licenses.

      Is this racial profiling? Is this a more efficient want to do your job based on statistics? Should they pull over people this way? These are questions I’d like to address.

      1. Racial profiling? Maybe…..for a good reason? 50% without valid driver’s license would indicate an obvious problem with that demographic.

        It’s almost impossible to make the argument that someone whom has not qualified for a legal driver’s license is a good driver.

        I grew up around police officers. The fathers of many of my childhood friends worked in law enforcement. The one thing I noticed is that police officers usually understood intimate cultural details about the communities they patrolled. They’re sharp! Sure, they make mistakes, but most of the time, they know what they are doing.

  31. I have an issue with your logic and your responses posed. Is it also possible that the people who were white to make up the rest of the percentage discrepancy, just chose to pay the ticket and not show up in court. I don’t think you can draw the direct conclusion from your experience in court that there is racial profiling. That is a very sheltered and antagonistic stance to take and your vote and answers are indicative of that.

    If you applied the same logic straight across the board then three out of four Hispanic people you know do not have a valid drivers license.

    1. Now that is a good point. It’s only 5:30am PST here and there have only been 16 votes so far, so I’ve added an option in the race poll about wealthier people tending to just pay the ticket and not bother defending themselves in court.

      Hispanics make up roughly 16% of SF’s population, but they made up roughly 45% of the defendant population that day.

      What race are you?

    2. WhitePerson

      I think you are right. White people are wealthier, and white people have more power positions (police officers, politicians, CEOs). So white people probably just pay the fine and get on with it more.

      That said, I do think the answers to the polls and the conclusion of being a white female are interesting. Sam is just stating the facts and displaying what he saw that day.

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