When police officers pull you over, why do they always reach for your tail light?

Regardless of whether you have ever experienced a police officer pulling you over in your car, you have probably wondered why they use this time-honored tactic of touching your tail lights. This happens when a police officer approaches your car after getting out of his or her own, but instead of going straight for your window, the officer will touch your tail light first.

Rest assured that this practice, which has been around for a while, is entirely legal and widespread. It was initially put in place to reduce the risk that police officers frequently face when enforcing traffic laws. Why, then, do police officers inspect tail lights?

How Come Police Touch Your Tail Light?

The majority of the time when a police officer approaches a vehicle, nothing unusual will occur. But danger is always a possibility, particularly now that there is more police violence every year. Before approaching a vehicle, police must be able to quickly inspect it, and touching or tapping a tail light can provide cops with a wealth of information about the person being stopped.

This strategy, for instance, can provide the officer with insight into the driver's mental state. When the officer touched the tail light, did the driver react with surprise, or were they preoccupied with something else? Do they have a weapon hidden or are they driving while intoxicated? Officers must think about these issues as they prepare to approach the driver. While there are a number of theories as to why police officers might touch your tail light, these are some of the most frequent ones.

In order to startle the driver

When they stop people, police officers inevitably encounter dangerous circumstances. Sometimes, drivers keep illegal substances or forbidden items like weapons, ammo, or drugs in their vehicles. Of course, the driver will want to conceal anything unlawful in the car before the officer approaches the window.

So, startling the person inside is one of the reasons police officers touch tail lights. The noise of the tap usually causes the driver to pause for a moment because they are not expecting it, giving the policeman more time to see what they are trying to hide (if anything).

The consistent application of this surprise strategy has demonstrated:

  1. To increase the number of DUI arrests
  2. To increase the number of drug dealers arrested
  3. To increase the number of people detained for possessing illegal firearms
  4. Other traffic infractions

However, the habit of touching a car's tail light can put our police officers in danger. This is due to the fact that the practice makes the police officer's position vulnerable to attack.

2. To Provide Support

Originally, leaving one's fingerprints on a car was another reason why police touched tail lights. Fingerprint evidence would demonstrate the presence of the officer at the scene in the event that the officer encountered a dangerous situation while stopping the subject vehicle. Only if the interaction between the driver and the officer resulted in a criminal investigation, such as a shooting or car accident, would the fingerprints be used.

However, given that the fingerprints could be altered, smudged, or altered, as well as being washed away by rain or snow, this isn't always a surefire way to aid an investigation. The fingerprints on the car are not always the best way for police to gather evidence from a vehicle crime scene.

3. Verify that the trunk is secured.

Police officers risk their lives every day while on the job, so they must always be on the lookout for potential threats and acts of violence. There is another method police use besides tapping a tail light, which can startle a driver and leave evidence on the car. The police officer may touch the back of your car as they approach your window to check that the trunk is locked if they believe they are in a dangerous situation when they pull you over. This tactic, which may seem strange, makes sure that nobody is in the trunk and could emerge.

A police officer will typically be accompanied by their partner if they check to see if your trunk is closed. While the other officer approaches your window, the first officer will check the trunk. This is done to protect the officers' safety and ensure that the driver cannot conceal anything or obtain a weapon while the officer is opening the trunk.

Still Cops Touch Tail Lights

Officers are in more danger than in the past because of the numerous crimes that occur on the roads. Instead of engaging in this practice, our law enforcement agencies have switched to using new technology to enforce traffic laws.

Security cameras are now installed on almost every corner of the road, and dash or body cameras are required equipment for all police officers, recording live video of the car and every interaction between the driver and the officer. removing the original justification for using tail tapping

Some police departments still mandate that their officers leave some type of fingerprint evidence—which need not be tail lights—on the vehicle. If an officer still touches your tail light after pulling you over, it's probably habit rather than necessity.

When Can a Police Officer Touch Your Tail Light?

Although touching your tail light as a police officer pulls you over seems like a good idea, is it actually endangering their safety? Due to the increased frequency of violence against police, taillight tapping could put officers in danger. F

For example, some law enforcement agencies advise their officers to avoid touching the taillights at all, while others advise them to only touch the side of the car rather than the back. If the officer touches the tail light, they may be directly behind the car and at risk of injury if the driver shifts into reverse. Even though it sounds morbid, these incidents do occur, and officers must always be on the lookout for danger whenever they approach any vehicle.

Check out what happens if you are stopped without a driver's license to gain more knowledge about traffic laws.

Need Assistance With a Traffic Incident?

Get a free case review from a local attorney to learn about your options if you were stopped by the police and have questions about a ticket you were issued.

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