Two lawyers in Portland, Ore. have created an app called "Driving While Black" that aims to help motorists of all races have friendly encounters with the police during traffic stops.
The app will provide users with advice and information about what civil rights they have when a cop pulls them over, according to the Associated Press. Such tips include avoiding moves that could make a cop think you're reaching for a gun.
"Do not reach for your phone when you are talking to the police," stressed Melvin Oden-Orr, one of the lawyers behind the app.
Co-creator and lawyer Mariann Hyland came up with "Driving While Black" after discovering an app created for drivers suspected of drunk driving. She and Oden-Orr spent the summer working on the app with software developer James Pritchett.
"Driving While Black" is a term common among African-Americans, as the Justice Department released a report last year suggesting that blacks have a greater chance of getting pulled over and having their cars searched than whites, the Associated Press reported. The report, based on a survey of people stopped by police in 2011, also states that African-Americans are expected more than whites to believe a traffic stop is not legitimate.
The new app debuts as encounters with the police during protests in Ferguson, Mo., and New York City are becoming more of an issue.
Oden-Orr has been working to educate young black people about handling traffic stops, inspired by several events such as the Rodney King beating in Los Angeles in 1991 and the death of a 21-year-old black woman that was fatally shot by Portland police in 2003 after jumping from the backseat to the driver's seat during a traffic stop to drive away.
Hyland and Oden-Orr say the best thing to do to survive a traffic stop is to stay calm, keep your hands on the wheel, be respectful and don't make any false moves, the Associated Press reported. They acknowledged how drivers can get frustrated if they believe they were stopped solely because of their skin color, with Hyland saying that frustration can lead to anger and that drivers should always be sure to keep their anger under control.
A directory of lawyers will be included in "Driving While Black" for drivers who believe they were wrongfully stopped or searched, but legal advice, like how to beat a traffic ticket, won't be available. Hyland and Oden-Orr will release the app sometime in late December.
"It's about being safe during a traffic stop so that everyone goes home alive," Oden-Orr said.
"Driving While Black" is the latest app created for friendly police encounters, with others include "Five-O," developed by three Georgia teenagers for people to rate their interactions with cops, and "Mobile Justice," created by American Civil Liberties Union affiliates to let users record encounters with police officers on video and upload them to the ACLU.