This note examined the danger of routine police–citizen traffic stops. The United States Supreme Court has assumed that traffic stops are a danger to police and has relied on this assumption in its decisions pertaining to the Fourth Amendment for these stops. To examine the assumption, ten years of national data on traffic stops, police homicides, and assaults were examined. Using the danger ratio developed by Garner and Clemmer [Danger to police in domestic disturbances. Washington DC: National Institute of Justice, 1986] to estimate the risk of police victimization, police homicides and assaults were found to be very infrequent occurrences during traffic encounters. The results of this study cast doubt on the Court’s assumption of danger during the routine police– citizen traffic encounter.
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