UPDATE: Eight states take steps to teach aspiring drivers how to handle traffic stops

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Thursday, May 18, 2017

Officials from Arizona to Virginia are taking steps to address the growingly popular topic of how to properly interact with police during a traffic stop.

The intent of these actions are to educate new motorists how to calmly approach a situation and to not panic, and also to help them avoid doing anything that may seem like a red flag to law enforcement.

In response to high-profile interactions between the public and police around the country, advocates say the pursuit at statehouses would be another tool to advise new drivers about what do during a traffic stop.

Critics question whether such instruction would be effective.

Changes are coming to Arizona’s driving exam. Spurred by the actions of one state lawmaker, the written portion of the exam will soon include questions on how to behave after being pulled over.

Rep. Reginald Bolding, D-Laveen, said he decided to take action after hearing so many different responses about what to do when you’re stopped by police.

As a result of working with the governor, the Arizona Department of Transportation, and law enforcement, the exam will be revised to include suggestions for how to act. An information pamphlet will also be available.

The change to the driving exam did not require a new state law.

In Illinois, a change in state law set for implementation this fall requires driver’s education courses taught in schools to include instruction on how to handle being stopped by law enforcement.

A similar law in Virginia takes effect as of July 1. The instruction at public schools will include details on law enforcement procedures for traffic stops.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed into law a bill to include certain traffic stop safety information in the state’s driver’s manual. Changes to the manual and driver’s license written test must be made once the department revises the manual and test.

In North Carolina, House lawmakers voted unanimously to advance a bill that would require the state’s Division of Motor Vehicles to produce new driver’s license handbooks. The handbooks would include instruction for aspiring motorists at public high schools on how to properly, and legally, conduct themselves during traffic stops.

HB21 has moved to the Senate Rules and Operations Committee.

Multiple pieces of legislation halfway through the Texas statehouse call for adding traffic-stop instruction for prospective motorists while taking driver’s education classes. Specifically, a section would be added to driver’s education courses for teachers to emphasize “appropriate interactions with law enforcement.”

Rep. Linda Koop, R-Dallas, has said her bill is intended to cover information that most drivers should already know but many do not.

“This is a commonsense bill about education and safety,” Koop stated.

Her bill, HB1372, covers procedures in all driver’s education, including online and parent-taught courses.

A similar Senate bill, SB30, includes a civilian “interaction training program” in the minimum curriculum requirements for police officers.

Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, said at a press conference the changes are needed to cover uncertainty about how to handle traffic stops.

“We believe we should have some standardized best practices put into policy in terms of what should be done.”

Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, added that simply calling for more police training will not solve the problem.

A New Jersey Senate bill would require the state’s Motor Vehicles Commission to inform and test drivers on their responsibilities during traffic stops.

“It is critical for us to hold law enforcement officers accountable for safely interacting with the public,” Sen. Bob Singer, R-Monmouth/Ocean, stated. “But there are simple steps that drivers can also take to prevent a police stop from escalating into a dangerous situation.”

The Senate Law and Public Safety Committee voted to advance the bill, S2501, to also expand the written exam to include a question regarding responsibilities during a traffic stop.
 
One Louisiana bill awaiting a House floor vote would also implement curriculum requirements for managing “routine” traffic stops.

Course requirements would include instruction and demonstrations on how to handle police interactions.

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