Caught in Their Own Speed Trap: The Intersection of Speed Enforcement Policy, Police Legitimacy, and Decision Acceptance
Empirical work examining the effects of police legitimacy has primarily focused on traffic stop procedures with less attention given to traffic enforcement policies. The current study takes advantage of a natural experiment in which a rural town with a strict speed enforcement policy was labeled a “speed trap” through the introduction of a billboard advertisement funded by the American Automobile Association. Drawing on theories of police legitimacy, we hypothesize the label will result in an abrupt-permanent increase in speeding citation contestation rates, despite the fact that the billboard actually increases predictability of citation issuance. Results of an interrupted time-series analysis indicate statistically significant abrupt-permanent increases in the speeding citation contestation rates for the intervention city. Further analyses reveal that significant intervention effects are confined to drivers with higher opportunity to contest tickets (in-state drivers) and to majority subgroups (Whites and men). The implications of these findings for policy and police–citizen relationships are discussed.