PAWcast: Sarah Seo ’02 *16 on How Cars Changed Constitutional Law
From the Fourth Amendment to discriminatory traffic stops
In popular culture the car is seen as a symbol of freedom. But as Sarah Seo ’02 *16 writes, driving a car is also “the most policed aspect of everyday life.” Seo, a legal historian and the author of Policing the Open Road: How Cars Transformed American Freedom, discusses the history of the automobile and its impact on the law and law enforcement in the United States, from a new interpretation of the Fourth Amendment to the issue of discriminatory policing.
Brett Tomlinson: Welcome to the PAWcast, a monthly podcast from the Princeton Alumni Weekly. I’m Brett Tomlinson, and our guest this time is Sarah Seo ’02 *16 a legal historian and associate professor of law at the University of Iowa. Sarah graduated from Princeton with a bachelor’s degree in history in 2002, and after studying law returned as a graduate student earning her Ph.D. in history in 2016. She is the author of a new book, Policing the Open Road: How Cars Transformed American Freedom.
Now, in popular culture the car is often a symbol of freedom. Consider all those movies and songs about the open road. But as Sarah writes, driving a car is also “the most policed aspect of everyday life.” So, we’ll be talking about the history of the automobile and its impact on the law and law enforcement in the United States. Sarah, thank you so much for joining me.
Sarah Seo: Thank you so much for having me. I’ve been looking forward to this conversation.
BT: Great. Well, I would like to start with some background on your book, which I gather draws on research that you did for your Ph.D. dissertation at Princeton. What drew you to this topic?
SS: You’re right, the book is based on my Ph.D. dissertation.