The Courant’s recent report revealing that black and Hispanic drivers in Connecticut were significantly more likely to receive a citation after a traffic stop compared to whites pulled over for the same offense brought a strong response from readers. Many said it merely confirmed what they have known for years, and many others said it was pure bunk and that unrelated factors not captured by the data completely explain the discrepancy.
But while issues of race and ethnicity had opinions split and emotions running high, this finding from the same data might be less controversial: As many have expected, women have it a little easier when they see the flashing lights in the rear view mirror.
From running stop signs to minor equipment problems, women were typically less likely to receive a ticket than men stopped for the same violation. The disparity was fairly slight for many moving violations, but the gap widened for offenses in which police generally have more discretion. For example, running a red light led to a ticket for 29 percent of men stopped, but only 26 percent of women. For an improper tail light, the discrepancy was far larger: 9 percent of men ended up with a ticket, compared to 4 percent of women. (Note to junior statisticians: Yes, the numbers are statistically significant.)
Women did not get a break in every category of violation. Talking on a cell phone led to tickets for 46 percent of men and 46 percent of women. And men were only slightly more likely to get a ticket for failing to wear a seatbelt, but the gap could have been caused by statistical chance.
As with the data on race and ethnicity, the same caveats apply: The forms used by police during traffic stops identify only the violation that led to the stop. It is possible that a motorist was pulled over for one offense, but ultimately ticketed for a different, more serious violation. The forms also do not identify a motorist’s driving record, which could affect whether a ticket was issued.
Click here or on the small chart above to see the gender gap across a variety of violations.