Driver handbook to add traffic stop section


Staff Writer

Monday, July 17, 2017

Young drivers statewide will have a new topic to learn before they hit the roads in the new year.

House Bill 21, also known as the Driver Instruction/Law Enforcement Stops Bill, was signed into law Thursday by Gov. Roy Cooper. Initially filed on Jan. 25, the bi-partisan backed bill will now require the N.C. Driver’s Handbook to include a section explaining protocol and procedure for traffic stops including proper procedure for law enforcement officers and what it calls appropriate interactions by drivers with those officers.

Nashville Police Chief Thomas Bashore offered support for the bill, saying it would be beneficial, especially for young drivers.

“I fully support the addition in the handbook,” Bashore said. “This will allow young drivers to get the information first hand about what to expect when encountering law enforcement as well as what will keep them safe.

N.C. Highway Patrol 1st Sgt. Jmmie Silver agreed.

“Anytime that we can do any training to potentially decrease tension during traffic stops, it’s a good thing,” Silver said. “Everybody has stress during traffic stops, including the officers. Training such as this would give a better understanding of what an officer might think when he or she sees someone do something as simple as reach for a phone or other item. It could also serve as an educational opportunity for more experienced drivers, too. They could talk to younger drivers to help them understand the issue.”

Silver added North Carolina is not the only state that has considered adding traffic stop education to driving education classes. He said Virginia, Mississippi and Rhode Island have considered adding it to their respective driving education classes as well as a number of other states.

Two local lawmakers — N.C. Reps. Shelly WIllingham, D-Edgecombe, and Bobbie Richardson, D-Nash, — were among 34 legislators from across the state who sponsored House Bill 21. Willingham said he supported the bill because there is a need for better communication and understanding between drivers and law enforcement.

“There have been a lot of instances around the country where people have been stopped and reacted in a way that made law enforcement misinterpret their behavior,” Willingham said. “Most of the time, the drivers don’t mean anything — it’s just their reaction at being stopped. So these are some things that law enforcement and drivers need to be aware of.”

Richardson agreed.

“The thinking with this bill was that maybe young people don’t know how to properly interface with law enforcement officers,” Richardson said. “Young people would be safer if they knew what to do and what not to do. People feel fear dealing with the police and fear can cause false reactions that can be misinterpreted.”

Now that the bill has been signed into law, the new handbooks will begin being printed Jan. 1, 2018.