Seven states act to teach aspiring motorists how to handle traffic stops

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 8/14/2017

Officials from coast to coast continue to take steps to address the topic of how to properly interact with police during a traffic stop.

The intent of these actions is to educate new motorists on 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 legislative pursuits are another tool to advise new drivers about what do during a traffic stop.

Critics question whether such instruction would be effective.

A new law in North Carolina incorporates into driver’s education curriculum instruction how to properly interact with law enforcement during traffic stops. The change goes into effect with the start of the 2017-18 school year.

Previously HB21, the new law also requires the state’s Division of Motor Vehicles to produce new driver’s license handbooks. The handbooks will include instruction for aspiring motorists at public high schools on how to appropriately, and legally, conduct themselves during traffic stops.

The revised handbooks will be printed starting on Jan. 1, 2018.

Arkansas, Illinois, Tennessee and Virginia also have enacted laws to require driver education courses to teach people how to react when pulled over. The new Arkansas law, which includes certain traffic stop safety information on the state’s driver’s manual, mandates that the changes be made once the State Police revises the manual and test.

Two new laws in Louisiana cover the issue. HB241 implements curriculum requirements for managing “routine” traffic stops. Already in effect, driving schools must provide students with instruction and demonstrations on how to handle police interactions.

SB17 mandates that students take the course and be tested before obtaining a driver’s license. The new rule takes effect the first of the year.

In Texas, new laws add traffic-stop instruction for prospective motorists while taking driver’s education classes. HB1372 covers procedures in all driver’s education, including online and parent-taught courses.

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

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

Another new law, SB30, includes a civilian “interaction training program” for high school students, prospective drivers and police officers to learn to interact with each other. Specifically, lessons would be provided about the duties of law enforcement, civilians’ rights and proper behavior during interactions.

Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, said at a news 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.”

The new rules go into effect Sept. 1.

Arizona has implemented changes to the state’s driver’s manual and written test. Spurred by the actions of one state lawmaker, the revised manual provides information for armed drivers on how to handle traffic stops.

The Grand Canyon State permits residents to carry weapons without permits. Since June, the state’s manual advises affected drivers to keep their hands on the steering wheel during traffic stops and inform officers immediately that a firearm is in the vehicle.

Drivers are also advised not to reach for anything inside the vehicle without the officer’s permission. Guns can be confiscated by law enforcement until the conclusion of the traffic stop – as long as no crime has been committed.

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

The change to the driving exam did not require a new state law. Bolding worked with the governor, the Arizona Department of Transportation, and law enforcement representatives to make the changes.

The New Jersey Assembly has unanimously approved a bill to require schools to teach students of all ages how to act responsibly during traffic stops.

Instruction for students in grades kindergarten through four would receive “age-appropriate” instruction. Starting with fifth grade, students would receive more rigorous instruction.

Assemblywoman Sheila Oliver, D-Essex, said the bill includes a provision that covers an individual’s rights under law in interacting with law enforcement.

“This is not about assigning blame or responsibility, but rather an attempt to empower our young people so they know what to do and what not to do,” Oliver stated.

A1114 is in the Senate Education Committee.

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