The Open Road and the Traffic Stop: Narratives and Counter-Narratives of the American Dream

57 Pages Posted: 5 Aug 2011 Last revised: 10 Sep 2012

Nancy Leong

University of Denver Sturm College of Law

Date Written: August 5, 2011

Abstract

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.

Keywords: road, traffic stop, American dream, Fourth Amendment, culture, law and culture, race, racial profiling

Suggested Citation

Leong, Nancy, The Open Road and the Traffic Stop: Narratives and Counter-Narratives of the American Dream (August 5, 2011). 64 Florida Law Review 305 (2012); U Denver Legal Studies Research Paper No. 11-23. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1905717

Nancy Leong (Contact Author)

University of Denver Sturm College of Law ( email )

2255 E. Evans. Ave.
# 465A
Denver, CO 80208-0600
United States

Paper statistics

Downloads
421
Rank
54,782
Abstract Views
3,295