In mid-2022, Florida passed a law that said that if an officer can hear the music in a person’s vehicle from 25 feet away, it was too loud, and that person would be ticketed for it. It had the potential to turn into a mess. Now, nearly a year later, a report from The Gainesville Sun shows just how bad things have become: It has allowed police to disproportionately ticket Black drivers.
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The law was a mess from the start. State officials claim that it was passed because loud music keeps drivers from hearing emergency vehicles, but it allowed for weird exemptions like commercial or political sound devices. But with the state that Florida has been in of late, the law seems to be working exactly as intended.
The study was done by the University of Florida’s College of Journalism and Communications. Using Florida’s Traffic Citation Accounting Transmission System, they took a look at 850 tickets from May to December 2022. They found that despite making up only 16 percent of the state’s driving population, Black drivers had received 37 percent of the loud music tickets. The rate at which Black drivers were ticketed is even more startling, especially when compared to White drivers:
Law enforcement cited Black drivers at a rate of just over 11 tickets per 100,000 Black drivers, and cited white drivers at a rate of 3.9 tickets per 100,000 white drivers.
Drivers are frustrated, of course. One driver The Gainesville Sun spoke with has been ticketed five times since the law went into effect. Two of those times were on the same day, just over two hours apart. He called the law racist and asked the state to reverse it.
“Stop being racist, simple. Something is disproportionately affecting one group, and it’s designed to be that way,” he said.
Two other men, both business partners who own Crew Cart Services LLC that offers pick up and drop off services using road legal golf carts, say that the ticketing has gotten so bad it’s impacting their ability to operate. It also seems as if the law is up to the officer’s discretion; both men say they’ve never seen an officer use any sort of sound measuring device to issue a ticket.
Police stand behind the law, saying it’s helping to reduce noise, but Florida drivers of color disagree.