Photo via Chris Yarzab/Flickr
In 2014, black motorists were stopped and ticketed for seatbelt violations 2.8 times more often than white drivers in Orange County, according to a new ACLU report
That number is even higher than the statewide average; across Florida, black drivers were stopped and given tickets for not wearing seatbelts twice as may times as white motorists, both in 2014 and in 2011.
Orlando isn't the worst offender in the state. In Escambia County, black drivers were four times more likely to be stopped and ticketed for seatbelt violations, and in Palm Beach County they were three times more likely.
The ACLU's report is based off of public data compiled annually by the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles as part of the Florida Safety Belt Law
enacted in 1986.
Originally, an officer could only cite someone and pull them over after noticing another legal violation, but after a 2009 amendment permitted "primary enforcement" of the law, which made seatbelt violations a stoppable offense.
In 2005, fears of racial profiling led to another amendment to the law requiring law enforcement agencies to report the race and ethnicity of those stopped and given tickets for not wearing seatbelts.
noted in its report that despite a small difference in Florida seatbelt use between white and black people (with about 6 percent less by black drivers), that doesn't account for the disparity in seatbelt citation rates.
"For differences in seatbelt use to explain the statistically significant racial disparities in citation rates documented by this report, Black people in Florida would have to wear seatbelts at a rate nearly forty-five percentage points lower than white people," the report says. "No evidence supports such a finding."
In 2014, black people made up only 13.5 percent of the Florida driving-age population, but made up 22 percent of the recipients for all seatbelt citations issued across the state. If black people had been stopped and ticketed in proportion with their estimated population among state drivers, they would have received 20,296 fewer seatbelt citations.
In addition to calling for an investigation into these racial disparities and what is causing them, the ACLU is also asking for legislation that will punish law enforcement agencies who don't submit these reports and force them to collect data for all traffic and pedestrian stops to analyze them for other race-related problems.
The Orange County Sheriff's Office has released this statement regarding the ACLU report.
"The Orange County Sheriff’s Office recently received the ACLU report concerning what they believe are racial disparities in Florida safety belt enforcement by the police and the report is currently being analyzed for accuracy," the statement says. "The Orange County Sheriff’s Office continually reevaluates its policies, procedures and operations to ensure that they are consistent with best practices. For example Sheriff Demings has taken the lead on training local law enforcement in “Promoting Procedural Justice with At-Risk and Minority Youth”, which was made possible through a grant from the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice and the U.S. Department of Justice. Sheriff Demings will be meeting soon with the ACLU to further discuss the issues."