Lawyer creates 'Driving While Black' app

Tuesday, December 9, 2014
Lawyer creates 'Driving While Black' app
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A lawyer in Oregon wants everyone to know what it's like to drive as an African-American, and she made the app to do it.

PORTLAND -- A lawyer in Oregon wants everyone to know what it's like to drive as an African-American, and she's made the app to do it.

"We use the name 'Driving While Black' because people of color experience a disproportionate number of traffic stops," said Marianne Hyland. "African-Americans are stopped almost two times more than their white counterparts."

And now the Portland lawyer is an entrepreneur. Her new app "Driving While Black" is getting a lot of attention.

"Black people talk about the phenomenon of driving while black and our yearning for resources to help navigate those encounters with the police so that they stay safe," she said.

By "they" she means everyone. Yes, the "Driving While Black" app is focused on African-Americans, but Hyland says it's for everybody. To educate best practices to use during traffic stops, to know your rights, and to stay safe, officers included.

"If they recognize the challenge that officers face on a traffic stop," said Portland Sgt. Pete Simpson. "That they're very unpredictable, and a lot of times bad things can happen during traffic stops to police officers."

It was 10 years ago when Hyland vowed to educate people -- especially youth -- about the dangers involved in a traffic stop.

"About 10 years ago, when Kendra James was killed during a traffic stop, I went to a community forum," she said.

And there, she met her now-business partner Melvin Oden Orr.

The app will include a contact function, so drivers can alert people when they're pulled over; it will have a record function, to record the stop; a complaint function that includes a commendation to give police feedback; and a function to help parents educate their kids. In today's racial environment, police say they welcome anything that helps.

"A lot of emphasis on interactions between police officers and African-Americans, and understanding that, it just seems like an effort that's trying to improve that relationship," Simpson said.

The app urges people of color to avoid tinted windows and to keep their headlights in working order. Portland police data from 2011 shows blacks are more likely to be pulled over for equipment and license violations than white drivers.