Black drivers in Florida get twice as many seat belt citations

If you are black and behind the wheel in Florida, on average, you are twice as likely to be cited for a seatbelt violation as the white driver in the car next to you. That, according to a new report from the ACLU.

"It raises the specter of possible racial profiling," said ACLU of Florida staff attorney Adam Tebrugge.

The ACLU said it studied law enforcement data statewide. 

It found some areas where black drivers were ticketed more than double, compared to white drivers. In Palm Beach County, black drivers were three times more likely than white drivers to be cited, and four times more likely in Escambia County. 

So, what about Tampa?

"The Tampa Police Department is one of the agencies that has not been reporting their data for the last 10 years," he said.

The ACLU says Tampa's failure to report violates state law.

Numbers the ACLU report did show TPD gave out 575 seatbelt citations to black drivers - compared to 549 to white drivers in 2014. Although the total number of police interactions with both is unclear.

The department denies any suggestion of racial profiling.

"If you're not wearing a seatbelt you're much more likely to get pulled over and get a citation, regardless of your race," said TPD spokesperson Steve Hegarty.

Tebrugge pointed out, it recalls the controversy over TPD's handling of bicycle citations last year, where the majority where given to black riders.

"It shows the same type of problems that were exposed by the bicycle stops," Tebrugge said.

The ACLU is calling for an investigation by the Attorney General's Office of Civil Rights into the statewide figures.

TPD says it does report it's citation data to the state, but will reexamine the format in which the data is reported.