Does local law enforcement target student cars? The Cedar Post asked members of the Bonner County Sheriffs Department. (Peyton Mullen)
Does local law enforcement target student cars? The Cedar Post asked members of the Bonner County Sheriffs Department.

Peyton Mullen

PREJUDICIAL PROFILING

Can the car you drive get you pulled over?

April 26, 2019

As you drive through the SHS parking lot, it’s not hard to notice a pattern.

Early 2000s editions of Subaru Outbacks, Honda CRVs, and hand-me-down Suburbans are often embellished with 7B stickers, parking passes, and knick knacks hanging from the rear-view mirrors.

Bearing this in mind, some might assume that it’s easy to distinguish a car owned by a high-schooler. With that can create the question — does owning a teen-looking vehicle increase attention from the police?

Graphic by Peyton Mullen

The hope would be that everyone gets fair treatment when abiding by laws on and off the road. Eleven out of 12 Bonner County Sheriff Deputies interviewed by the Cedar Post say they observe an equal number of teens and adults breaking traffic laws. And 9 out of 12 said that they did not detect any patterns or associations with “teen-looking cars.”

Though the majority of Deputies reported no identifications, there were a few exceptions.

“Teenagers tend to not have the income adults do,” Deputy Jason Davis said. “As a result it is far less common to see teenagers driving newer (or) more expensive vehicles.”

The assumption that teenagers are negatively profiled can be observed beyond the law. People often link teenage drivers with reckless and dangerous behavior, such as  texting and driving, speeding, and drunk driving. This thought can be for valid reasons.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention shows that new drivers aged 16-19 get into more accidents than any other demographic. Drivers between the ages of 16-19 are three times more likely to be involved in a fatal accident than drivers over the age of 20.

With this being the case, the assumption that cops should pay slightly more attention to those driving “teenage cars” seems to be a valid one. Many Deputies observed the same thing when considering common teen traffic violations. Speeding and failing to fully stop at stop signs were a frequent answer.

“I realize we are all in a hurry,” deputy Alan Fowler said, “especially that moment you’re finally out of school and it’s a weekend, but I think people don’t realize the totality of what can happen when they are not cautious with these laws.”

Though encountering a law enforcement official may not always be the most fun experience, considering the bigger picture is important. Fowler emphasizes that Deputies in Bonner County are driven by the intent to prevent future accidents and potential injuries, and as a result, warnings are often administered.

Though the motives of officers are observed to be constructive, several SHS students believe otherwise.

Junior Dylan Peterson, the driver of a 2002 GMC Yukon adorned with an SHS sticker, recalls a time in early February of 2018 in which he was pulled over for having a tail light out. Peterson said that though the officer was being respectful, the first thing that he asked when seeing four teenage boys in the car was if they were high. Shortly afterwards, a drug dog was brought to the scene, according to Peterson.

“The cops didn’t find anything, but they made us get out of the car for almost an hour. It was really cold and uncomfortable,” Peterson said.

The cops didn’t find anything, but they made us get out of the car for almost an hour. It was really cold and uncomfortable.”

— Dylan Peterson

Another SHS student, the owner of a 2002 Honda CRV, recounts a night in which they were pulled over three times in the span of 20 minutes for having a headlight out.

 

“Though they were really respectful, it was a pretty unpleasant experience,” said the student, who asked not to be identified by name.

Even with differing positions, respect was always a present description for those interviewed. The goal of a citizen, no matter the age or car they drive, should always include respect. This extends beyond the  treatment of others to abiding by the law and possessing concern for others.

It is important to remember that officers of the law are citizens as well, who work to make for a safer community. Though teens may assume that cops pay them special attention, officers interviews for this story wanted to make it clear that they are only concerned with improving the general well being.

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