Driving Status Violation Charges
The rate of cases with driving status violation charges per 1,000 people of driving age in St. Louis City Municipal Court
Black drivers are four times as likely as white drivers to be charged with violating regulations around driving status.
A score of 100 represents racial equity, meaning there are no racial disparities in outcomes. The lower the Equity Score, the greater the disparity.
For Driving Status Violation Charges, a score of 100 — a score reflecting racial equity — would mean black and white drivers are equally likely to be charged with violating driving status regulations. It is important to note that for this indicator, equity is not our only goal: we also want to improve outcomes for all.
What does this indicator measure?
Driving Status Violation Charges measures the rate of cases with driving status violation charges per 1,000 drivers (people of driving age) in St. Louis City Municipal Court. Driving status violations include unlawful or expired plates, driving with a revoked or suspended license, operating a motor vehicle without maintaining insurance, and vehicle license/inspection/title violations. In 2016, there were 14,846 cases in St. Louis City Municipal Court with these types of charges included in our analysis. This means there were 57.4 driving status violations per 1,000 drivers.
Driving Status Violation Charges Analysis
Cases with driving status violation charges per 1,000 drivers in St. Louis City.
|Cases with driving status violation charges
|Drivers: Residents of driving age (15+)
|Driving status violation charges per 1,000 drivers
|4.139 to 1
Data Source: St. Louis City Municipal Court, 2016. American Community Survey 1-year PUMS, 2016.
Data Note: Cases administered by Judge Schweitzer were not included. In 2016, due to his position as presiding judge, his name was on all administrative dismissals resulting from clearing out a backlog of old cases. Including these cases in the analysis would have skewed the results severely.
What does this analysis mean?
Black drivers are more than four times as likely as white drivers to be charged with driving status violations. For every 1,000 black drivers, there are 102 drivers charged with driving status violations, compared to 25 of every 1,000 white drivers. If charge rates were equitable, there would be 8,870 fewer black drivers charged with violating driving status regulations.
Frequency of Driving Status Violations Cases
|Cases with Black Defendant
|Cases with White Defendant
|Operating vehicle without insurance
|Vehicle License/Inspection/ Title violations
|Driving on a suspended license
Data Source: St. Louis City Municipal Court, 2016.
**Some cases have multiple charges.
The most common charge in this category is "operating vehicle without insurance." The least frequent charge in this category is "driving on a suspended license." However, for all charges black drivers are charged much more frequently than white drivers, despite making up a smaller percentage of the driving-age population.
Why do Driving Status Violation Charges matter?
Many people rely on driving to get to their jobs, especially in St. Louis. Drivers are required under Missouri law to have a valid driver’s license, license plate, registration, and insurance, as well as clear title. Some obstacles to meeting these legal requirements include the lack of affordable insurance, inconvenient operating hours, and offices that are not co-located or do not digitally coordinate receipt of applicant information.
The U.S.Treasury Department found widespread unaffordability of basic liability auto insurance in their Study on the Affordability of Personal Automobile Insurance. In particular, they found car insurance to often be too expensive for low-income households. The U.S.Treasury Department observed that "[u]naffordable auto insurance leaves many Americans in the predicament of either not driving, which dramatically restricts their economic opportunities, or driving without insurance, which not only is illegal but puts them and other drivers at risk."
Which Calls to Action from the Ferguson Commission report are linked with this indicator?
While there are no calls to action specifically about driving status violation charges, there are calls to action related to municipal charges more generally, which include:
Questions for further investigation
- Why is there a racial disparity in Driving Status Violation Charges?
- What can St. Louis do to reduce racial disparities in Driving Status Violation Charges?
- What initiatives are currently underway to reduce racial disparities in Driving Status Violation Charges?
How can I learn more about this issue?
In 2018, the Kansas City Star profiled the disparate impact of "economic-based crimes" by drivers in Kansas City, including driving without insurance. In 2014, ArchCity Defenders released a white paper on regional municipal courts, where they described "expired inspections, expired tags, or driving without insurance" as citations typically issued in the absence of other law-breaking by police officers.
In 2015, the New York Times profiled the relationship between traffic stops and arrests, including for driving status violations in Greensboro, North Carolina, in The Disproportionate Risks of Driving While Black.