“Driving While Black” App Offers Traffic Stop Tips

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A lawyer in Oregon wants everyone to know what it’s like to drive as an African-American, so she created a smartphone app to do just that by educating drivers on how to safely deal with police during traffic stops.

“We use the name ‘Driving While Black’ because people of color experience a disproportionate number of traffic stops,” said Marianne Hyland. “African-Americans are stopped almost two times more than their white counterparts.”

The issue has been on Hyland’s radar since an event hit close to home nearly a decade ago. Kendra James, a 21-year-old black woman, was fatally shot by Portland police when she jumped from the backseat to the driver’s seat to drive away during a traffic stop in 2003. Afterward, Hyland attended a community forum hosted by her now-business partner, Melvin Oden Orr, where she vowed to educate the black youth on how to handle similar situations.

They say the key to surviving traffic stops is to remain calm with both hands on the wheel, while being respectful and refraining from any sudden or false movements. Although the tip sounds easy enough, encounters can be dangerous for police as well, which already put them on high alert. Meanwhile, drivers may also find it difficult to relax when they feel they are wrongfully stopped or searched due to their skin color.

“They describe a pattern of getting pulled over by the police, and they find it to be very frustrating and sometimes that frustration can lead to anger,” Hyland said. “You have to always be mindful to check the anger.”

The app will include a recording function to record the interaction, contact function to alert people when they are pulled over, a complaint function to send police feedback, plus a “Know Your Rights” section to inform people of their rights when dealing with police.

“It’s about being safe during a traffic stop so that everyone goes home alive,” Oden-Orr said. The “Driving While Black” app is slated for release in late December.

In today’s racial environment, police say they welcome anything that helps. Do you think this app can make a difference? Tell us your thoughts below.

(Getty Images/Creative # 172600076)

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