Did you ever notice that police touch your car when they pull you over? Please keep reading to discover the secret behind this move and why they always touch the back of the vehicle. Also, learn whether touching your car could save a police officer’s life.
Let’s start by investigating a cop’s procedure when pulling you over. Buckle up and stay within the speed limit. Here we go!
When a Cop Pulls You Over
When the police pull a vehicle over on a roadway, they assess the situation and whether they have a reason for the traffic stop. They must have probable cause for stopping a car. The reason must be without bias, reasonable, and specific.
The most common reasons for a traffic stop are a traffic law violation, a broken brake light, or suspicion of drunk or drugged driving due to driving behavior. Other reasons are suspicion the driver committed a crime, the driver has active warrants, or the driver witnessed a crime. The bottom line is the police can’t pull a vehicle over for no reason.
The cop will turn their flashing lights on when pulling over a vehicle and follow it until it stops safely on the side of the road or in a parking lot. Once they have confirmed it’s safe to get out of the police car, the officer approaches the vehicle they pulled over. When doing so, the cop touches the back of the car or tail light with one hand.
Why Do Police Touch Your Car When They Stop You?
It may seem strange for a police officer to touch a car when they’re approaching the driver’s window. But there are a few good reasons.
1. To Surprise You
One of the reasons a police officer touches the back of a car upon approach is to surprise the driver. They don’t do it funnily but to startle the driver or passengers who might have illegal items. The body language, action, or verbal cues a person gives when this happens can be very telling. A person may quickly give away that there are illegal substances or items in the vehicle, which will direct the process the officer takes from there.
2. To Leave a Fingerprint
Another reason police touch the back of a vehicle during a traffic stop is to leave their fingerprint. Leaving a fingerprint provides evidence if the car flees the scene or the officer becomes incapacitated. So, if there’s a criminal investigation, there’s evidence on the vehicle. For example, it could be helpful when looking into a car accident or a shooting. It gives proof that the vehicle encountered law enforcement.
3. Check the Trunk Is Latched
A final reason why police touch your car is to make sure you latched the trunk. They do this to check if anyone is hiding in or stuck in the trunk. If there is someone inside, they could jump out at the police officer and harm them. So, touching the trunk assures the officer that they can continue approaching the vehicle safely. If someone is trying to get out, police may hear or feel strange movements.
Pro Tip: If you get a knock on your RV door, you’ll want to know Can Police Search My RV Without a Warrant? Find out!
Do Police Always Touch the Back of the Car?
Police don’t always touch the back of the vehicle. While it is a common practice, it doesn’t happen every time. Modern technology, like dashboard cameras, can now identify vehicles during investigations. So touching the back of a pulled-over car is somewhat unnecessary; however, it’s a safeguard in case technology fails.
Can Touching the Taillight Save a Cop’s Life?
Another reason why police touch your car is that it can save their life. For example, if someone were hiding in the trunk and they detected it by touching the vehicle, it could save the officer from getting ambushed. Additionally, if an investigation or criminal activity occurs, investigators can identify the officer and vehicle from their fingerprints. Additionally, how the driver reacts to the touch can give vital clues to how the exchange will go and allow officers to further gauge the situation.
How Should You Respond to Being Pulled Over?
Knowing how to respond if the police pull over your vehicle is crucial. Let’s look at the four main behaviors you should display in this situation.
Pull Your Vehicle Over to a Safe Place and Turn It Off
As soon as the police car lights flash, slow down and pull your vehicle to a safe place. Ensure the location is safe for you and the officer who will need to walk up to your car. Once you’ve come to a complete stop, turn off your engine and stay inside the vehicle.
Stay in the Vehicle With Your Hands on the Steering Wheel
After you are entirely stopped and have turned off your engine, stay seated in your vehicle with your hands on the steering wheel. Having your hands on the steering wheel allows the police officer to see your hands and ensures the officer’s safety. For example, they won’t suspect you’re holding a weapon.
Provide the Officer With Your Driver’s License, Registration, and Proof of Insurance Upon Request
When the police officer asks for your driver’s license, registration, and proof of insurance, provide it immediately. This is standard procedure, and you must comply. Police are also within the law to ask for your name, address, and age.
Remain Calm and Answer the Officer’s Questions Honestly
It’s vital to remain calm and polite when the police pull you over and touch your car. Be honest. Police academies train officers to become suspicious and detect dishonesty.
Police can ask you anything, including asking to search your vehicle, but you’re not required to answer except for giving your identification. They are also within their rights to pat you down. But unless they arrest you, they can’t do anything else. However, they can search your vehicle if you are on a public roadway and they have probable cause. If they see something illegal in the car through the windows, that is considered probable cause to perform a search.
Pro Tip: We uncovered If You Are Allowed to Drive Naked to ensure you avoid any awkward run-ins with the police.
Next Time, Watch for the Taillight Touch
The next time the police pull you over, watch for the tail light touch. Now you know why police touch your car, and hopefully how to act to ensure a smooth exchange with the officer.
It’s best to prevent having to see a cop touch your car. You can do this by maintaining your vehicle, driving the speed limit, and following all traffic laws. Of course, never drink or do drugs when driving.
Has a police officer ever touched your car? Tell us in the comments!
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