The tragedy is, according to Professor Kerr, that these stops may be unconstitutional. To be fair, there are good reasons to be wary. Kerr notes that:
Another reason the programs run into constitutional difficulty is the juxtaposition of the programs with the permissive rule of Whren v. United States. Whren offered a bright line rule: Probable cause to believe that a person has violated a traffic regulation justifies a traffic stop, even if the stop is pretextual (that is, the officer really has no interest in enforcing the traffic laws). If "good driver" stops are constitutional and co-exist with Whren, you end up with what strikes me as a pretty remarkable result. Unless I'm missing something, the police would be able to pull over pretty much any one at any time. Any driver who is violating any traffic regulation could be pulled over under Whren, and any driver who is not violating a traffic regulation could be pulled over under the "good driver" program.
Once someone is pulled over in a traffic stop, if the police officer sees something that tips him off that another crime may have occurred (a marijuana joint on the passanger seat, for example), he can search the vehicle for that purpose too.
That concern troubles me too, but I'd like to think we can find a way out of it--if for no other reason than I like people being nice to each other, and giving me free baseball tickets is a nice thing to do.
It seems like we must be drawing this line in some contexts anyway with Terry stops though. The police can "stop and frisk" me if they have reasonable suscpicion I'm either committing or am about to commit a crime. Fine. And if I live in a small town, where I know the local beat cop, he might come up to me for no other reason than to say hi, chat about my family and school, etc.. If he sees a gun-like bulge in my jacket pocket, can he stop and frisk me just off that? I think probably--but I'm not sure I think that's a problem either. It seems weird to say the original conversation with the cop is a 4th amendment violation. And maybe my friendly neighborhood cop is a distinct situation from a traffic cop--its more of an imposition to be stopped while driving, for example. But at the same time, clearly we have to have mechanisms that let police officers be nice people and good community members without implicating the 4th amendment.
Kerr also does not believe that this program encourages good driving either, but I'm still undecided on the subject: presumably that depends on how many good driver awards are given out. Eventually you get a panoptican effect (but in the nice, fuzzy, Santa Claus way). But even if the odds are low, people might driver safer anyway. After all, people buy lottery tickets based on much lower odds (admittedly, a much higher payoff too). And even beyond that, just the news of the program and the stories might exert subtle pressure on people to drive more safely--benefits which might exceed marginal.
I'm not so invested in these programs that I want to preserve them at all costs. If "good driver stops" mean the 4th amendment becomes effectively meaningless on the highways, then I'll let it go. But I'd like to think that we can get around this. Can good cops be good neighbors too?