Police – Public Contact Survey

The most common reason for contact with the police is being a driver in a traffic stop. In 2008, an estimated 44% of face-to-face contacts that U.S. residents had with police occurred for this reason. About half of all traffic stops that year resulted in a traffic ticket. Approximately 5% of all stopped drivers were searched by police during a traffic stop.

These findings are based on the Police-Public Contact Survey (PPCS), a BJS survey that interviews U.S. residents about their contacts with police during the previous 12 months. Persons who reported more than one instance of face-to-face contact during the year are asked to describe the most recent occurrence. The PPCS has been conducted about every three years since 1999.

Summary findings

An estimated 17.7 million persons age 16 or older indicated that their most recent contact with the police in 2008 was as a driver pulled over in a traffic stop. These drivers represented 8.4% of the nation’s 209 million drivers.

Stopped drivers reported speeding as the most common reason for being pulled over in 2008.

In 2008 about 5% of traffic stops led to a search of the driver, the vehicle, or both. Police were more likely to search male drivers (7.4%) than female drivers (1.6%).

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