A law passed unanimously during the long session adds a new section to the North Carolina Driver’s Handbook. House Bill 21 requires that the 2018 edition of the handbook issued by the DMV include a description of traffic stop procedures and a set of tips for drivers on how best to interact with the police during routine stops.
The law also requires the Department of Public Instruction to incorporate these topics into the driver education curriculum offered at public high schools, beginning this school year.
The curriculum and the additions to the Driver’s Handbook have been developed in consultation with the State Highway Patrol, the Sheriff’s Association, and the North Carolina Association of Chiefs of Police.
Advocates say the proposed changes to driver education materials will help reduce violent or deadly encounters between motorists and officers.
The Bureau of Justice Statistics says a traffic stop is the most common reason for contact with the police. Knowing what to expect and how to respond during a traffic stop can help the driver and the officer feel more at ease in what could otherwise be a stressful and even dangerous situation.
“It’s just a public safety issue,” bill sponsor Rep. John Faircloth told the Charlotte Observer. “I think all of us want to do anything we can to make the public safer out there, and to not put our officers in a situation where they might make the wrong decision.”
Driver education materials in the future could include some of these recommendations from AAA on what to do and what not to do during a traffic stop:
- Follow the officer’s instructions, slow down, use your turning signals and pull your vehicle well off to the side of the road when being stopped;
- Stay in your vehicle and turn off the engine and radio;
- Keep your seatbelt fastened until the officer has seen you wearing it.Take a deep breath and don’t panic. Remain calm while the officer explains why you were stopped;
- Turn on your interior lights or dome light if stopped at night;
- Be on your best behavior, and always be polite to the officer. Don’t be argumentative;
- Cooperate with the police. It could make all the difference between a ticket and a warning;
- Be honest with the officer. If you really didn’t see the stop sign, or were unaware of the speed limit, let the officer know;
- Keep hands in plain view of the officer. Avoid reaching or making sudden movements. Never reach under your seat;
- Avoid provoking the officer or showing off in front of other occupants;
- Always carry proper identification: a valid driver’s license, proof of vehicle registration and current proof of insurance. Do not retrieve or reach for documentation until instructed;
- If you are asked to exit the vehicle, do it slowly; and
- If you receive a traffic citation or ticket, accept it calmly. Contest the traffic citation in a court of law.
North Carolina joins several other states that have proposed or enacted similar laws. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, “lawmakers in Alaska and Arkansas focused on training materials: Alaska’s new law requires motor vehicle instructional manuals to cover drivers’ rights and responsibilities when stopped by an officer; Arkansas also requires the written driver’s license test to include questions on stops.”
Legislatures in Louisiana and Texas also passed legislation this year requiring police stops to be part of driver education. Texas’ new law goes a step further than the others by requiring traffic stops to be part of police training and public high school coursework. The curriculum must include the duties of police, the rights of the public, the proper actions for civilians and officers, how to file a complaint and more.
Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island have also considered bills.
In 2016, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner signed legislation requiring driving schools to teach students how to react when stopped by the police, and the 2017 Illinois Rules of the Road handbook contains a new section entitled “Being Pulled Over by Law Enforcement.”