about the book:
In twentieth-century American culture—from high art to lowbrow, from Great American novels to commercials and advertisements—the automobile represented individual freedom. But the law did not treat cars as the preeminent symbol of the right to be left alone. Then, as now, no one could drive without taking a test, applying for a license, registering the car, and buying insurance. And that was just the beginning. Once a person set out for a drive, speed limits, stoplights, checkpoints, and all the other requirements of the traffic code restricted how one could drive. A violation of any one of these laws authorized the police to stop the vehicle, issue a ticket, and even make an arrest. Confronted with the authority of the police to inspect and to intrude, the automobile was not quite the unmitigated freedom machine it was celebrated to be. In fact, driving was the most policed aspect of everyday life.
How did understandings of freedom change such that Americans came to accept extensive policing of the very symbol of their independence? And notwithstanding the Warren Court’s due process revolution, why have American constitutional criminal procedures been inadequate in achieving justice for all? POLICING THE OPEN ROAD explores these paradoxes to tell the history of policing cars, which, in the car-dominated United States, is ultimately a history of policing American society.