American citizens interact with police officers more than 50 million times each year. A majority of those interactions (58.7 percent) are related to cars and driving. According to data from the Bureau of Justice, there were 32,242,443 driving-related interactions in 2011 (the last year for which data is available).
It is quite likely that these routine encounters will be eliminated over time with the introduction of self-driving cars. That would allow police departments to focus their energies on more serious matters. In some cases, they might even find ways to save money for taxpayers.
Additionally, while the vast majority of traffic stops are routine, there is always the potential for a dangerous or even fatal encounter. Four percent (4.1 percent) of all encounters involved the use of force or threat of force.
It will take a long time before all these savings and benefits can be derived. That’s because Americans tend to hang on to their cars for an average of 11.2 years. There are currently 271 million cars on the road, and half of them are at least 10 years old — so it will be much longer than a decade before most cars on the road can drive themselves.
In "Politics Has Failed: America Will Not," I note how technology will transform many industries such as healthcare and education to create a better world. While I am pessimistic about America’s political system, I am optimistic about our nation’s future. This optimism is based on a recognition that the culture leads and politicians lag behind.
Overall, 42.0 percent of all public-police interactions involve a driver and police officer during a traffic stop. Another 8.8 percent are between a passenger and police officer during a traffic stop, and 9.7 percent involve an accident.
Outside of driving-related issues, 26.7 percent of all interactions come from reporting a crime or problem to police. Presumably, police departments lack the resources to follow up significantly on many of these reports. Only 0.5 percent of interactions with the public result from police investigating a crime. Just 0.8 percent come about because the police suspect someone of wrongdoing.
Scott Rasmussen’s Number of the Day is published by Ballotpedia. Each weekday, Scott Rasmussen’s Number of the Day explores interesting and newsworthy topics at the intersection of culture, politics, and technology.
Scott Rasmussen is a Senior Fellow for the Study of Self-Governance at the King’s College in New York and an Editor-At-Large for Ballotpedia, the Encyclopedia of American Politics. His most recent book, "Politics Has Failed: America Will Not," was published by the Sutherland Institute in May.To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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