The Open Road and the Traffic Stop: Narratives and Counter-Narratives of the American Dream
University of Denver Sturm College of Law
August 5, 2011
64 Florida Law Review 305 (2012)
U Denver Legal Studies Research Paper No. 11-23
American culture is steeped in the mythology of the open road. In our collective imagination, the road represents freedom, escape, friendship, romance, and above all, the possibility for a better life. But our shared dream of the open road comes to a halt in the mundane reality of the traffic stop - a judicially-authorized policing procedure in which an officer may pull over a vehicle if she has cause to believe the driver has committed even the most minor traffic violation. This paper examines the cultural texts - books, movies, songs - celebrating the open road and juxtaposes them against those documenting the traffic stop. The traffic stop, I conclude, interrupts the open road narrative closely associated with the American dream. Those stopped most frequently - in particular, racial minorities - are consequently denied full participation in an abiding national fantasy.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 57
Keywords: road, traffic stop, American dream, Fourth Amendment, culture, law and culture, race, racial profilingAccepted Paper Series
Date posted: August 5, 2011 ; Last revised: September 10, 2012
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